Deborah Wong

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Deborah Wong
Born Deborah Anne Wong
1959 (age 57–58)
Residence California
Nationality Chinese-American
Alma mater University of Michigan (Ph.D., 1991), University of Pennsylvania (BA, 1982)
Known for Study of music in Thailand, Asian American music, ethnomusicology and public musicology.
Website Faculty profile
Scientific career
Fields Ethnomusicology, Southeast Asian studies, Asian American studies
Institutions University of California, Riverside
Thesis The Empowered Teacher: Ritual, Performance, and Epistemology in Contemporary Bangkok (1991)
Doctoral advisor Judith Becker

Deborah Anne Wong (born 1959) is an American academic, educator, and public musicologist. Her scholarship is in the field of ethnomusicology, where she is known for her studies of Asian American and Thai music. She identifies herself as Chinese-American, Asian-American, and multi-ethnic. Wong was born on the East Coast of the US, and now lives in California. Wong earned her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and music at the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. Wong later attended the University of Michigan where she earned her master's degree and then her Ph.D. in 1991.[1]


Wong has taught as a Professor of Music at the University of California, Riverside since 1996. Wong has served as President of the Society for Ethnomusicology, and also founded the Committee on the Status of Women with Elizabeth Tolbert in 1996. Wong is also the president of the Board of Directors for the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. She is very committed to her public sector work, and has served on the advisory council for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage since 2011.[2] Wong's focus is on Asian American issues and activities; she has addressed these issues in curriculum and students’ needs.[3] Wong was nominated to be a member of the National Council on the Humanities by President Barack Obama in December 2015.[4]

Taiko drumming[edit]

Wong has studied Taiko, Japanese American drumming, and is part of Satori Daiko, a performing group in Los Angeles. Taiko provides a space that allows women to talk about their performances together and talk about what drumming provides them. The physicality and powerful sounds of Taiko are what moved Wong to discover drumming. She said that music practices, like Taiko, have helped to build community. About 75% of Taiko players are women, most of them Asian American. Wong has said that Asian American women come from family environments where they are encouraged to be quiet and respectful, and Taiko is a way of breaking out of this silence — musically, socially, and politically.[3]

Asian American studies[edit]

Professor Wong has long been interested in Asian American studies. As an ethnomusicologist, she focuses on Asian American performance and the way it intersects with the racial imagination in America. Race is very much a part of our lives, America has racist structures that drive it, and looking at race when studying music is a different approach.[3] She used a $10,000 grant from the California Council for the Humanities to help fund the research for the site,[5] She wanted to spread the word about the little-known story of the city's lively Asian community. "Asian American Riverside" is a resource for local schools and the community. The project will help support interethnic understanding and strengthen community in Riverside.[6]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Wong, Deborah (2001). Sounding the Center: History and Aesthetics in Thai Buddhist Ritual. Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226905853.  Wong's first book is about ritual performance and its implications for the cultural politics of Thai court music and dance in Bangkok in the late twentieth-century.[1]
  • Wong, Deborah (2004). Speak it Louder: Asian Americans Making Music. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415970393.  This book focuses on music and identity by looking at case studies.[1]

Wong's other publications investigate Chinese American and Japanese American jazz, Asian American hip-hop, and Southeast Asian immigrant musics to name a few.[1]

Research collectives[edit]

Wong has been a part of the oral history collective project Women Who Rock: Making Scenes, Building Communities.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "Deborah Wong". Department of Music, University of California, Riverside. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "APPROVED RESOLUTIONS OF THE JANUARY 31, 2011, MEETING OF THE BOARD OF REGENTS" (PDF). Smithsonian Institution. 31 January 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Deborah Wong - Women Who Rock Oral History Archive". Women Who Rock. University of Washington. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts". 17 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015. 
  5. ^ "UC Riverside Hosts New Web Site on Asian Americans in Riverside". Newsroom. University of California, Riverside. 19 May 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Wong, Deborah. "About Asian American Riverside". University of California, Riverside. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  7. ^ "Women Who Rock Oral History Archive :: Deborah Wong". Retrieved 2015-12-18.