About Elissa Milne

Elissa Milne has been composing since she was 6 years of age and has written musicals, performance art works, educational piano music, organ music, pop music, chamber music and choral music.

Elissa has also worked as a television producer and editor, radio interviewer, classroom teacher, leadership coach, conductor, writer of parenting articles, producer of a monthly cabaret series, session musician, accompanist for a gospel singer, and she’s preached a sermon or two.

With a musical education that began in the earliest weeks of life observing her piano teacher mother giving lessons, Β Elissa’s studies include piano with Mavis Francis (Palmerston North) from the age of 6, piano and keyboard musicianship with Georgina Zellan-Smith (Auckland) from the age of 13, and an undergraduate composition degree from the University of Auckland while still a teenager. Elissa began giving piano lessons when she was 14, and with many precocious accomplishments as a composer and musician Elissa went on to graduate studies in semiotics, education, performance studies and business administration.

In 1997 Elissa’s first collections of educational piano compositions (Little Peppers and Pepperbox Jazz 1) were published, and within two years examination boards around the world were including her music in their syllabuses. In 2000 Elissa began presenting professional development seminars for piano teachers around Australia and New Zealand in association with Hal Leonard Australia. In 2003 Faber Music (London) published Elissa’s entire Little Peppers series (5 volumes plus a teacher’s guide) and commissioned more original works for a range of additional publications, including pieces for cello (Ten Toads currently in ABRSM Cello Grade 1 syllabus) and trumpet (Go-Goanna currently in ABRSM Trumpet Grade 4 syllabus).

Also in 2003 Elissa created, developed and edited the “Getting to…” piano repertoire series for Hal Leonard Australia, now ranging from Preliminary through to Grade 5 standard. With 10 graded collections in the series it has sold more than 60,000 copies in Australia alone.

In 2008/9 Elissa partnered with the Australian Music Examination Board to create the 3 volume P Plate Piano series, a ground-breaking repertoire series for beginner pianists featuring some of the best of international contemporary composing for beginner pianists and with an emphasis on keyboard musicianship, creativity and responsive listening.

Elissa has either presented seminars or keynote speeches for ISME, EPTA (Europe), APPCA, VMTA, WAMTA and other music education conferences over the past 10 years, and has regularly given lectures as part of the Sydney Conservatorium’s Piano Teacher Festival program. In addition, Elissa has conducted composition workshops and creativity masterclasses, adjudicated piano festivals and composition competitions, and provided professional training, social media services and marketing consultancy in a variety of music industry contexts. Her writing about music has been published in concert programs, journals, magazines and blogs; her songs have won awards.

Within the realms of scientific possibility, she might do anything next.

48 thoughts on “About Elissa Milne

  1. Enjoyed reading your blog–thanks for sharing!

    Meri Dolevski-Lewis
    Clarinet & Piano Teacher
    Toronto, ON, Canada

  2. I enjoy teaching your music and now I’m enjoying reading your blog. Many thanks.

    Wendy Floyd,
    Christchurch NZ

  3. Hi Elissa, I’ld love to know your thoughts on group piano teaching. I have only taught students piano individually but am curious to know if group teaching can work. Do you teach in groups or do you know of others that successfully teach in groups?
    Thanks for your thoughts, Kate

    • Hi Kate, I haven’t done any group piano teaching to speak of, and my perspective is that group lessons are clearly possible, but that they are a slower way of developing pianism than one-on-one tuition. General musicianship skills, on the other hand, may well be developed more effectively in group settings (for a number of reasons). Because playing the piano is a physical skill each student needs one-on-one attention, even within the context of a group, and this means that either the class moves slower, or the student gets minimal individualised attention, or both. The other element to consider is that group lessons are very rarely conducted on acoustic pianos, so the use of digital instruments creates new/different learning opportunities no matter how many are in the class.

      • Hi Elissa, I would like to share with you my experience with group piano lessons. Several years ago, a well known American piano pedagogue, Elvina Pearce visted our shores as guest speaker at a conference. What a delight & revelation she was – extolling the virtues of a group lessons. She gave us copius notes which I have followed (with a few variations of my own) & I’m pleased to say that they are a very popular part of our term’s programme. Briefly, we mostly cover theory & musicianship skills & include performance (learning listening skills & etiquette plus some stage presentation skills along the way). The groups are small – no more than 5 children of similar age – & lessons are about an hour. I have also included some games that require children to move from piano to keyboard & back again playing a simple round – lots of listening & rhythm keeping. The kids of all ages love these groups & they now form an integral part of my teaching programme. Kids often learn “sideways” better than vertically i.e feedback from their peers is often accepted more readily.
        On another note, thanks for your joy & energy, plus I’m loving the P-Plate piano series & so are my students.
        cheers, Rosemary

      • Now that’s exactly where group lessons deliver fabulous learning experiences, in my opinion!! All those aspects of pianism and musicianship are so much more fun in a group situation, and I absolutely agree that the value of peer-to-peer learning is huge! It sounds as if you have an absolutely delightful time…. From the sound of your post these children all have individual piano lessons as well – is this right?
        (And thank you for your lovely comments!)

  4. Hi Elissa,

    I’m studying for the Grade 3 Trinity Exam. I’m learning Grouch at the moment, and I’ve studied Mozzie in the past. They’re my two favourites and I look forward to trying some more little peppers soon!


  5. Hi Elissa,

    Just wondering, I have a student learing your piece “Rhyme time”. As a ragtime piece I believe it should be played with straight 1/8 notes, however some fellow teachers of mine say it should swing. there is no indication at the start of the music. what do you recommend?

    • Hi Andrew. Yes, Rhyme Time should swing, and the music should indicate that clearly… Which edition are you working from, I wonder? In the AMEB book they have a little note (1) with the swung rhythm indicated at the bottom of the page. And yes, ragtime should be straight as a rule. I didn’t write this piece intending for it to be an example of ragtime per se – this is just how the music unfolded – and the fact that it has rag characteristics is really accidental (or at least incidental).

  6. Hi Elissa,
    My 10 year old son is learning with Tess Hill in Western Australia and getting ready to learn your piece Vendetta. We find listening to recording of the pieces so helpful in preparation however I cannot find a recording of this anywhere. Any suggestions where I might find one?

    Many thanks
    Wendy Summers

    • At the moment there is no recording available for the pieces in the Pepperbox Jazz books…. I’m so sorry I can’t be more helpful – remedying this situation is definitely on my to-do list! My publisher isn’t interested at this stage in making recordings available via CD, so I’m looking at other formats. But I don’t imagine I’ll have a solution available in time for it to be much help to your son, sadly. But as soon as something is available I will let you know…..

    • Wendy, I just thought I’d let you know – Trinity College have included Vendetta on their Grade 5 syllabus for 2012-14, and this means that their will be a recording of it available from July (via the Trinity College Grade 5 books/CDs). I’m not sure if this is wildly too late, but it was sooner than I was expecting!!! Hope your son has enjoyed his Vendetta experience….

  7. Hello Elissa,
    I am currently learning to play ‘Vendetta’ for my Grade 5 piano with Trinity Guildhall. What was the inspiration for you to compose this piece? Do you have any further background information to the piece? Do you have any performance tips when playing?
    Thank You

    • James, thanks for the reminder to get a wriggle on with writing a Vendetta entry in this blog. I’ll hopefully have it up before a week is through.

  8. Elissa – your arrangement of the good, the bad and the ugly for pfl preliminary – has no key signature – has the tone of d minor – how would you answer an examiner

    • It’s in D minor! You don’t need a key signature to be in a key. Of course, this piece uses a Dorian sound for most of the time (hence no B flat in the key signature), but it’s still D minor. πŸ™‚

  9. Hello Elissa! My student is greatly enjoying your second Pepperbox Jazz Book. We will be performing Ninety-nine at our spring recital. What would you recommend as a next step when he completes this book? I wish there were four more in this series! πŸ™‚

    • Great question! Nothing more from me, alas… I had a more advanced series proposed to my publisher, but then I had a baby and it got complicated…

      Let me get back to you on this one – and chase me down on facebook if I’ve not gotten back to you within a reasonable period of time… This month is going to be quite busy for me, so feel free to chase me down if this slips my mind!! (seriously, chase me down, it might be the only way!!)


  10. Hey Elissa,

    Hope you remember me from Castle Hill High School with Mrs Lowry and Mr Williams. I was your student, Melinda Buckman (now Fletcher). You played for me for my HSC.

    I saw you on the web and thought to message you.

    Would love to catch up with you if you are ever in Sydney.

    I named my daughter with you in mind. She is now 4. Her name is Elisa. We went with one s.

    • Melinda! How lovely to hear from you!! And how absolutely gorgeous to hear about your daughter!! (And one “s” will mean she has none of my lifetime of bothers with people mispronouncing my name!)

      • My name is Elisa (pronounced Eleesa) but I get called Elissa all the time. I don’t get it, if my name was Lisa no-one would call me Lissa. I don’t know how people could get your name wrong either!

    • Does she ever get Eleesa? My name is Elisa and that’s how mine is pronounced but I get Elissa and Eliza more frequently than they get it right πŸ˜‰

  11. Hello Elissa,
    I am currently playing your piece Garden Path for Grade 4 piano with Trinity Guildhall. I was wondering if you could tell me any information about the piece and what your inspiration was? It’s a beautiful piece and I enjoy playing it.
    Thank you, Lucy

    • Hi Lucy, to be honest, this piece just came to me as I sat at the piano, and there it was! But to me it conjures up images of a childhood friend’s back yard garden, with vines trained over a path so that on even the most sunny days a walk through the garden involved intrigue and shadow, and somewhere in that tiny romance of this backyard garden is a sense of seas not sailed and adventures not had – that this garden path wasn’t quite the path intended.

      How soon is your exam? All best wishes for your performances!!

      • Thank you for your reply. My exam is either this summer or at the end of the year. The piece. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the piece, it truly is a beatific piece that I enjoy playing. I am also thinking of performing it in my GCSE performance. Thank you again for responding so quickly
        From Lucy

  12. Hi Elissa !
    I am playing one of your pieces in my Grade 4 Trinity College exam this year (Garden Path). I was wondering if you have any tips on how you would like the piece to played? I was also wondering how you interpret this piece and what inspired you to compose it? It is truly a beautiful piece and I really enjoy playing it.

    Thank you,

    PS: I am a student of Margie Feduck, I was wondering if you knew her?

    • Hi Faith! Margie is a Facebook friend of mine! So, yes, definitely I do know her! πŸ™‚

      Now – as to Garden Path – I have to be honest – I have no clear impression of what was in my mind when I wrote this piece. I do remember that I was interested in having a LH part that behaved the way the LH behaves in this piece, and the internal chromaticisms kind of just emerged in the process of the melody wending its way through its story….

      It’s definitely one of the most fluid of my compositions for piano students when it comes to pulse/rubato, and I think it takes a particular kind of connection with the emotions of the piece to be able to believe in that meandering quality (and perform it!).

      No real tips, I’m afraid, without hearing you play it first! But keep the image of a garden path in your mind – maybe there are some tiny flowers that catch your eye and so you pause to marvel, or maybe there is a fragrance that makes you hurry to track it down. Whatever is attracting your attention the path of this garden has corners that hide and then reveal new discoveries, but come back in a week or two and these flowers and fragrances will be a thing of a past season. And why are you walking down a Garden Path in the first place?! These are the things you need to know about yourself when you play this. πŸ™‚

      Ooh- it’s all gone a bit Big Life Lesson-y there at the end! But I hope some of these sentences give you good things to use in your performance preparation!

  13. Dear Elissa, my daughter has started to learn your beautiful gem of a piece “Mozzie”. We have two questions, please: should the rhythm be syncopated, in a jazzy style? And is Mozzie a real word (does is mean mosquito?)
    Thanks a million from Annegret and Rhianne Noor (age 7)

    • Hi Annegret – so sorry it’s taken me a few days to respond!

      Yes, the word “Mozzie” is an Australian abbreviation for mosquito – and it’s far more commonly used in everyday speech than is the full word.

      And Mozzie is to be played straight, not swung, but of course the rhythm itself is syncopated, so it feels jazzy – just a Latin jazzy, not a blues/swing jazzy!

    • I know that I was born in 1967, but I have no idea when I died. I’m hoping, in fact, that that hasn’t happened yet!!

  14. It sounds very inspiring, thank you very much for your blog. I am really inspired and interested in. Piano is wonderful musical instrument and I can’t imagine playing another musical instrument πŸ™‚

  15. I enjoy reading your blogs very much. As a piano teacher for many years I always like the composer’s comments on the evolution of their own works. I am trying to incorporate musicianship and composing into my lessons and have had some success.
    Your pieces are inspiring and fun to play. My students especially like Vendetta and Garden Path both having been exam pieces. Also your one page pieces like Mozzie.
    I am beginning to teach my 6 year old grandson Cooper this year and would like your comments on suitable books and pieces by you.
    We live in the Bay of Plenty, NZ
    Annamarie and Cooper

  16. Hellow Elissa,
    I am Cheryl and I am 6 years old. I like the pieces you have composed for our kids and they are really so beautiful. At the moment I am playing ” Canon and on ” in the book “Getting to Preliminary”. I feel like it is too fast since its speed is dotted minim 84. I think it might be dotted crochet 84 or dotted minim 48.

    I hope you have a good day and waiting for your reply.


  17. Appreciative teacher here! I enjoy using your pieces with students. Question: for ‘Lost’ from Little Peppers, in current RCM Level 1, it says con pedale …. how do you intend pedal to be used?

    Thank you for any assistance.

    • Hi Arne – it’s really up to the performer (and the performer’s teacher!) to decide what will work best for them.
      The piece works fine with only finger pedalling, certainly, but adding legato pedalling just gives the performer a wider range of sounds to access…

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