Where are they now?

Following our re-imagined Music Festival and HSC Showcase celebrations, the Arts have proven an important part of life at Loreto Normanhurst this year. We checked in with several of our alumni doing incredible things in the worlds of performance, music and design.

Sharon Candy (Westhoff, ’84)

“I grew up in Wahroonga and went to Prouille Primary School. I was lucky enough to attend Normo as a day student with my three sisters (Lisa, Nick & Pip). My friends, a love of sport and art gave me a wonderful experience at Loreto. To this day I have beautiful friends from both Prouille and Loreto, whom I cherish. I honestly can’t imagine life without them!

I left in ’84. Despite my passion, I did not choose to pursue a Fine Arts Degree. But I have no regrets, having been able to learn new skills and experiences in other fields. I attended Hornsby TAFE as a mature age student and completed a Graphic Design degree. My favourite job was at Taronga Zoo in the Graphic Design Department.

Graphic Design was a perfect job, as I was able to be flexible at home while bringing up young children and attending life drawing and painting classes. It was at this time that I started to paint with the confidence I lacked so many years ago. With my family’s support and more on my plate, I thrived on juggling kids and painting. Many a kids’ play day was with paint splattered on canvases on the grass. Parents would always be in awe with how I painted with the kids around. 

I have been a full-time artist now for some time and have a studio in St Leonards. The community of artists in this area is so supportive and I am lucky to be part of it. I have exhibited at a number of galleries including Art2Muse in Double Bay, where I will be having my next exhibition in mid-December. I have been featured in Interior Magazines and Art prizes which has been a great thrill.

Life has had plenty of twists and turns which only made me more determined. Henri Matisse sums it up perfectly, saying that “Creativity takes courage.” That’s what I strive to be – courageous!”

Elise McCann (’02)

It was our honour to have actress, musical theatre performer and  Normanhurst alumna Elise launch our HSC Showcase 2020.

Elise is a Helpmann Award and Sydney Theatre Award winning actor most well known for originating the role of Miss Honey in the Australian production of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s  Matilda.   

A graduate of NIDA, Elise’s other theatrical credits have included roles in Oklahoma, MAMMA MIA!, South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, the world premier and Australian tour of Doctor Zhivago and many more. She was nominated for Best Performance in the 2015 Sydney Theatre Awards for her role as Lucille Ball in Everybody Loves Lucy (Luckiest Productions). On screen, Elise featured in the  Channel Seven miniseries  Peter Allen – Not The Boy Next Door,  in the comedy/drama Tumbling  for Two Little Films, and in the musical comedy The Modern Guide to Dating by Australian writer, composer and performer John Fields. 

In June 2017 Elise appeared in the World Premiere of Dahlesque,  a concert featuring music from adaptations of Roald Dahl’s classic stories. It was after this  that her debut album of the same name was released by ABC Music/ Universal Music. 

Elise sang the National Anthem at the 2018 Bledisloe Cup and has been a guest at the Sydney Theatre Awards, Carols in the Domain, New Musicals Australia Launch and more.  She  has also worked as a writer, creator, producer and dramaturg under her production company, Oriel Entertainment. 

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Elise was scheduled to appear as Mary Flynn in the Stephen Sondheim classic Merrily We Roll Along at the Hayes Theatre Sydney in April and May 2020. This was to be followed by her role as Miss Hedge  in the West End smash musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie from June 2020.  

Elise is currently working remotely in development on a new feature film for multi-award-winning, Emmy-nominated producer Dan Wigutow and Emmy-nominated director Roger Spottiswoode. She is also presently a writer and producer on the Screen Australia funded comedy series She Becomes Her

Please enjoy a video recording of Elise’s opening address at our virtual HSC Showcase 2020:

Sophie Payten (a.k.a Gordi, ’10) 

Folk-pop singer-songwriter and producer Sophie Payten, who goes by the stage name Gordi, needs little introduction.  Passionate about music from childhood, Sophie was involved extensively in music and performance during her time at Loreto. Since then, she has collaborated and toured with the likes of Troye Sivan, Sam Smith, Of Monsters and Men, Asgeir and more, both at home and abroad. 

Performing as Gordi, Sophie began receiving  both national and international attention after playing independently across Sydney while studying medicine at university. It was during this time that Gordi released tracks online through Triple J’s Unearthed radio. Gordi was nominated for the 2015 Unearthed Artist of the Year J Award from Triple J, the 2015 Next Big Thing SMAC (Sydney Music, Arts & Culture) Award from FBi Radio, and was dubbed one of the 40 best new bands of 2016 by Stereogum.

Gordi  signed record deals with Jagjaguwar in the United States in February 2016 and Liberation Music in Australia in April 2016. Her debut LP ‘Reservoir,’ was released on 25 August 2017.

Throughout 2019, Sophie worked as a doctor at Prince of Wales Hospital, after completing her medical studies at The University of New South Wales in 2018. In January 2020, Gordi released her first single in almost three years called ‘The Cost,’ with profits going to the 2020 Australian Bushfire Relief.

Gordi’s second studio album Our Two Skins  was released on June 26 and debuted live at the Sydney Opera House. It was also recently nominated for an ARIA awarded, in the category of Best  Adult Contemporary Album.

We invite you to  watch Sophie perform her amazing works on this video recording of her live concert at Sydney Opera House.


Natalie Nicolas (’10)

A special thank you to Natalie Nicolas (Class of 2010), for her inspiring address to our students as they busily prepared for a Music Festival under very different circumstances to normal. Natalie is  an acclaimed composer, PhD candidate and music educator. She is also the 2021 Composer in Residence here at Loreto Normanhurst.

Natalie completed her Master of Music (Composition) under scholarship at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she is now a tutor and lecturer. She also performs as a vocalist and pianist and owns and runs a piano tuition school. 

Natalie has written music for a great many artists, such as the Australian String Quartet, Claire Edwardes, the Goldner String Quartet, the Muses Trio, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Canberra Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and more.

She was selected for the inaugural National Women Composer’s Development Program in 2016-2018, and won the prestigious Flinders Quartet Composition Competition in 2017 and 2019, going on to receive their residency. 

In 2017-18, Natalie was commissioned by the Hush Foundation, and wrote for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, premiering her piece in City Recital Hall, Sydney, and further in Melbourne Recital Centre.  In 2018, she  wrote for Gondwana voices and the Song Company; that same year, the Muses Trio premiered her piece ‘Afflatus’ in an Australian tour for International Women’s Day.

Natalie was commissioned in 2020 by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. She also won the prestigious Harold and Gwenneth Harris Endowment for Medical Humanities Award 2019/20 for her doctoral work with music and healthcare. In February, she found herself featured on ABC Classic FM’s ‘Best of Australian Classical Music,’ and their International Women’s Day ‘Women of Note’ album.

Some of her other projects this year have included collaborations with the Australian Ballet, Southern Cross Soloists and Slava Grigoryan, and award-winning guitarist Matt Withers thanks to a generous commission by the ABC through their Fresh Start Fund initiative. 

We invite you to watch the video below of Natalie’s message of encouragement to LN students prior to the Music Festival.


We love hearing about what our alumni are up to and are always delighted when ex-students get in touch. Please contact us with your news  at development@loretonh.nsw.edu.au