APATA – The Australian Performing Arts Teachers Association

Studio News > Article

Member Spotlight: Jonathon Rice – Head of Performing Arts, Pulteney Grammar School

Posted by Team APATA | Feb 9, 2023

Head of Performing Arts for South Australia’s Pulteney Grammar School, Jonathon Rice BA, Grad Dip Ed, MBA, joins us for our latest episode of the APATA Podcast.

2022 saw Pulteney Grammar School win the APATA National Performing Arts School of the Year Award and Jonathon reflects on the dogged determination of his school community to embolden students with a broad range of learning opportunities, including their award-winning performing arts offerings.

“We are a contemporary, traditional, liberal, co-educational school in a private setting, but we also are becoming very good in the sense of providing a broad opportunity for our students to be involved and engaged with performing arts. And that’s really exciting.” Jonathon says.

Pulteney Grammar School is the second oldest school in the country celebrating their 175-year-old history in 2022. A strategic direction implemented by Mr Rice and the Performing Arts Faculty ensures diverse and sector-relevant learnings for their students to engage with.

He firmly believes that having an awareness of your strategic plan and your directions, being diligent, resilient and determined to get what you know is best for the school and for your students is critical to a program’s success.

“The idea that performing arts educators need to be able to sell their vision, their dreams, their ambitions to all sorts of people. Whether it be business directors in schools; the principals, to deputy principals of curriculum, parents, their own staff, to others, to bring them along that journey so that those people have all the aspects that they require to make the outcomes possible. I think that’s really important.”


A passion for education

Educated in the South Australian public education system holding a scholarship to Woodville High School Special Music Program as a trumpeter being taught by several significant teachers including Standish Roberts (then principal trumpet ASO), Jennifer Rosevear and Jonathon Draper. He studied music performance at the then South Australian College of Advanced Education in Adelaide (1981 – 1983) and once again greatly benefited from a world class education from teachers like Bob Hower, Stephen Wittington, Hal Hall and Brain Chatterton among others.

Transitioning from player to teacher Jonathon taught in Queensland for 2 years, before returning to Adelaide to complete his Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary Music) in 1986. After several years in country SA then 7 years in Special Education (Townsend School for Vision Impaired), he then moved into the Catholic then independent school systems in both Victoria (Director of Music at Ballarat and Clarendon College) and South Australia (Director of Music at St Aloysius College Adelaide).

Now as Head of Performing Arts for Pulteney Grammar School Jonathon has built a teaching group that embraces their diversity as strength, with each teaching team member able to shine while celebrating a common underlying value; a passion for education, a passion for young people, a passion for making connections with people, plus energy, enthusiasm, ambition and resilience.

“Performing arts educators need to be resilient, not just from a point of view of their own self-development, but resilient in the sense of helping students through their journey. Making sure they have the opportunities for the outcomes they really value. ”

Participation and pathways high on the agenda at Pulteney

Jonathon is passionate about performing arts education and developing programs that engage young people with music, drama or dance, so these students can find their tribe and explore all the amazing opportunities the performing arts offers young people in our 21st century world.

” [At Pulteney Grammar School] we provide opportunities to students to see what performing arts is about; Not just about music, dance, and drama, but other technical areas of performing arts that appeal to certain types of students before they get to year 10. Part of that is the digital music path. In the past students could only do year 12 music if they played an instrument and could read and write music. Well, that’s terribly old-fashioned and we need to be much more open about that. The creative life of music is not just about minims, and crotchets.”

“We are trying to create other pathways for students through their journey to meet what they want to do, but also to make sure that we connect that with the academic outcomes that schools and the South Australian Certificate of Education [SACE] requires.”

A current year 12 student studying music completely in Ableton Live without any traditional music training has the real possibility of receiving an A+ and merit when they graduate this year. Thanks to the support of the school we can create these new experiences and opportunities.

For the first time we’ve had students who are extremely digitally aware…

“I think we are in a very interesting period of history because for the first time we’ve had students who are extremely digitally aware and have a capacity to access things that you and I, when we were young, could only dream about. Students now have access to the internet and all the power and knowledge and information that has. We must change, we have to grow, we have to follow, enable, and interest, and engage students in a way that captures them. And that means we have to change.”

The substantial restructure of Pulteney’s middle school performing arts program to include DJ classes, musical theatre, sound engineering, Ableton Live and set design; as well as the traditional music, drama and dance curriculum encourages engagement for those students who may not have had the opportunity to do so in the past.

School productions, such as Pulteney’s TASA award-winning MATILDA, are inclusive regardless of experience.

“If you can’t dance, can’t sing, can’t act, but you want to be on stage – you’re on stage. We guarantee participation!”

Pulteney presents Matilda the Musical from Pulteney Grammar on Vimeo.

The importance of performing arts educator in schools

Jonathon is adamant that as a leader and educator you are there to help students make connections. Which is a fundamental part of performing arts.

“It’s about relationships and people and nurturing a student’s ability to make connections with themselves, and allowing students to grow in their relationships with other human beings in different ways.”

“We have an advantage in performing arts, but we do need to have an awareness of it so that we are genuinely creating, and somewhat curating, opportunities for students to be engaged with other people.”

Covid brought its own challenges to building those crucial connections. As we all have experienced these recent years. But Jonathon has no fear for the future of performing arts education in and ever evolving educational system.

Exploring the possibilities of ChatGPT for example the optimised language model for dialogue which openai.com says, “Makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

“I’m not fearful of education going through a significant revolution of how we do things, because I know that for performing arts, we have to be in the room together. To do that digitally does not work the same way. You may have choirs spread throughout the world, but that’s not the same as having 20 people in a room together working with a piece of music, or a play.”

The joy of being an educator

Along Jonathon’s professional journey he has owned and operated two hotels and became general manager of a significant hospitality business in 2011 including creating and operating a live jazz music venue.

A continued passion and enthusiasm for music, business, education and guiding the next generation to finding their tribe, dreams and aspirations suit him well as Head of Performing Arts at Pulteney where he nearly knows every student by name, even though he may not teach them.

“It is one of the joys of being a performing arts educator. I have the best job in the world because they pay me to do all these wonderful things with kids and help them through their journey.”

“That joy of being part of a young person’s discovery through the performing arts, whether they be just a pure musician who stands behind the music stand and plays an instrument, to those kids who discovered that they could act, is an absolute privilege.”

Thank you, Jonathon Rice, and best of luck to the Pulteney Grammar School students and teachers in the year ahead!

Pulteney Grammar School – Where Passions Prosper

Pulteney Grammar School is a co-educational Anglican school and is one of the oldest schools in Australia dating back to 1847, where is began on Pulteney St in the city. We are a relatively small school with about 850 students on campus every day from Reception to yr. 12. We offer as broad liberal educational experience with significant and diverse co-curricular programs on offer including a substantial music, dance and drama programs. The school began as co-ed and then became a boy’s school for most of its history, reverting to co-ed in 1999 which has allowed the school to grow and become a leading educational institution in this state.

Episode mentions:



Sign Up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about the latest news and events.

Sign Up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about the latest news and events.