Born in Thailand, Priwan Nanongkham is the director of Kent State University Thai Ensemble. He has been holding an adjunct professor in Ethnomusicology teaching world music survey and occasionally some regular music courses both for undergraduate and graduate students at Kent State University, Ohio since 2005. Nanongkham also served as a Thai music volunteer teacher and performer among Thai communities in the United States from 1995-1998. He taught Thai-American children to play Thai traditional music in Denver, Colorado, 1995 and in New York from 1996-1998. As a performer, Nanongkham occasionally joins performances among Thai communities such as in Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York. He earned the Recognition as Outstanding Volunteer performer in the “Seventh Festival of Music and Dance of Thailand” from the Thai Sunday School of Vajiradhammapidip Temple, New York, 1997, and in “the Thai Kingdom Celebrates His Majesty's 50th Year on the Throne” from the Royal Thai Consulate General, New York, 1996. With other volunteer music teachers, Nanongkham also contributed few Thai classical music tracks on CD entitled “the World Music in Our Backyard: Ethnic Music of Our Neighborhoods,” produced by Chubby Dragon Productions, 1997.
Nanongkham received his Ph.D. in Musicology-Ethnomusicology, 2011, and M.A. in Ethnomusicology, 2001 both from Kent State University. He earned Bachelor of Arts in music education from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, 1992. As a performer, Nanongkham has strong background in Thai traditional music from which he attended Natasin school, a kind of Thai conservatory of music and dance in his youth. As a music scholar, in 2006, he won the T. Temple Tuttle Prize, for the best student paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Niagara Chapter with his paper, “Inside the Piphat ensemble: Interpretations of Clientship and Class Structure in Thai Society Regarding Thai Classical Music.” Nanongkham wrote his dissertation on music of Northeast Thailand entitled, Modern Isan Music as Image: A Positive Identity for the People of Northeast Thailand. Although considered as a Thai specialist, his primary area of interest covers music of Mainland Southeast Asia following with his secondary geographic areas of Island Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Philippines.
Recently Nanongkham is also interested in Asian-American music and cultures in the United States in which he had authored eight entries in the Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife (2010). He also contributed one book chapter in Contemporary Issues in Southeast Asian American Studies, edited by Jonathan H. X. Lee and Roger Viet Chung (2011).