Born in Thailand, Priwan Nanongkham is the director of the Kent State University Thai Ensemble. He is 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 in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and New York. He earned recognition as an 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 to Thai classical music tracks on “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 a strong background in Thai traditional music, having attended Natasin school, a kind of Thai conservatory of music and dance in his youth. As a music scholar,he won the T. Temple Tuttle Prize in 2006 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 a Thai specialist, his primary area of interest is the music of mainland Southeast Asia with a secondary focus on the islands of Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Recently Nanongkham is also interested in Asian-American music and cultures in the United States. He has authored eight entries in the Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife (2010). He also contributed one book chapter to “Contemporary Issues in Southeast Asian American Studies,” edited by Jonathan H. X. Lee and Roger Viet Chung (2011).