Board Members

Ayşe Taşpınar Gatenyo (President)

Ayse Taspinar Gatenyo is an artist with an international foundation, stemming from her extended life experiences in Europe, Asia and the United States. Her expanded travels have equipped her with the essential communication skills to successfully interact with people with an array of different origins and backgrounds through her fluent mastery of English, Italian, French and Turkish. Ms. Gatenyo’s passion for sharing, exchanging and uniting through music has lead her to give lectures and presentations as a speaker and pianist alike. Her most recent accomplishment was her highly acclaimed presentation at the Soka Gakkai International Culture of Peace Resource Center in Los Angeles, CA. and her participation in their “Distinguished Speakers Series”. Additionally, Ayse offered to give a lecture and piano performance on the topic, “Rediscovering the shared cultural heritage of Armenians and Turks through music.” This same year, Ms. Gatenyo was invited to perform as a soloist to perform Chopin’s second piano concerto with the UCLA Symphony. Active as a soloist, chamber musician and accompanist, Ms. Gatenyo has been performed at major concert halls worldwide. Ayse finalized her Doctorate program under the tutelage of world recognized pianist and pedagogue, Vitaly Margulis. She also earned a W. Ulmer Dissertation Fellowship in support of her dissertation subject, “Armenian and Turkish Piano music in the Ottoman Empire”. She holds a Masters degree from the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana University as well as a Bachelor degree and Conservatory Diploma from Turkey and Italy’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatorio di Milano. Ms. Gatenyo received fruitful guidance throughout her musical development from Svetlana Navarsardyan.


Senem B. Çevik (Vice-President)

Senem B. Çevik, Ph.D, is a lecturer in International Studies at University of California, Irvine and University of California, Los Angeles. She teaches several courses in diplomacy, communication and experiential learning at both campuses. Prior to joining UCI, she was an assistant professor at Ankara University, Turkey and lecturer at Atılım University, Turkey. Since 2007 she has served as a fellow with the International Dialogue Initiative (IDI), a non-profit that studies societal conflict and psychologically informed dialogue. Çevik was a Leadership Institute fellow at the Center for Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) at Bennington College in 2015. During her 2015-2017 Tobis fellowship at UC Irvine’s Center for Ethics and Morality she completed her research project on Turkish-Armenian musical diplomacy. Çevik was invited to join the Turkey-Israel Civil Society Forum (TICSF) an initiative of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung in 2015 and currently serves an active board member. Çevik is also a faculty member of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) a campus based citizen diplomacy initiative. She has attended several NATO training programs on media, terrorism and strategic communication. In 2010 she attended the Stanford University Summer Institute in Political Psychology and received training in public diplomacy from University of Southern California in 2013. Her research focuses on public diplomacy, peace-building, strategic communication and conflict management with an emphasis on Turkey and the Middle East. Dr. Çevik has a co- edited book (with Philip Seib) titled Turkey’s Public Diplomacy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and co-authored (with Burcu Gültekin Punsmann) Pathways to a Common Future: Youth Perspectives on Turkey-Israel. Çevik is the author of numerous journal articles, book chapters and monographs in both English and Turkish.


David Niemetz (Treasurer)


Baruh Burak Gatenyo (Secretary)

Burak Gatenyo started his construction career in 1987 in Istanbul where he has a Civil and Structural Engineering degree from Yildiz Technical University. He holds certifications in Construction Management; Architecture and Interior Design; two general contractor “B” Licenses. Being a multi-faceted person; he became immediately a key person to projects he worked in the beginning of his career. Managerial skills and success in dealings with legal authorities made this hard- working civil structural engineer a very popular owner representative project manager at young age. He successfully designed / built many large projects or directly involved in design and managed large projects of different natures for individual owners to governments. He became expert in design; construction management and general contracting of textile and chemical factories; office buildings up to 32 storey high; bridges and water structures in concrete and steel structures. Running his own company has provided him with vast managerial experience, with a good conception into successfully implementing a market launch with development strategies, which includes, direct, on-line, corporate and affinity marketing.


Van Jewell

Van Jewell a solo artist who is professionally known as Van Hinton. Van later joined The Actor’s Workshop, where she studied for two years in Studio City. To date, Van’s television credits include “Leadfoot”, an After-School Special, as well as a featured role in an episode for the long-running daytime television show, “The Bold and the Beautiful”. She also appeared on “The Gong Show” and came in second. In 2004, Van took on a new role when she became CEO and co-founder of Smooch Inc., a premium clothing line Van created along with her husband and CFO, Larry Kantor. But in 2008, Van returned to her music roots when she and Kantor formed Smooch Music, Inc., an independent record label distributed by Alliance Entertainment. Van and Larry worked for years, with Shawn Rivera of La Face Records’ “Az Yet”, on recording Maya Angelou’s last project before her passing called “Caged Bird Songs”, an album of her spoken word performances over hip- hop beats, and R&B and gospel tracks.


Brian O’Neal

Brian O’Neal is a Grammy Nominated American music artist. He is a singer, pianist, composer, producer and performer best known for his work with the ground- breaking Rock, Roll and Soul band The BusBoys. Over his career he’s led the band to millions of records sales, provided on camera appearances and soundtrack participation for major films and television shows and toured the nation. Brian continues to expand his horizons, producing film, television, recorded works and working with charitable organizations and causes.


Mykesha Robinson

Mykesha A. Robinson is the founder of the World Music Commission. Mykesha began her career in international relations and diplomacy in 2010 as a member of the Los Angeles Consular Corps Choir. Working alongside U.S. Diplomat and Conductor George Tom Novinger, Mykesha coordinated musical events for the U.S. Department of State Regional Office of Foreign Missions and the Consular Corps Choir. With over 100 diplomatic offices in the Los Angeles Consular Corps, Mykesha aimed to stregnthen and organize diplomatic relationships through music and the Arts. Mykesha and her company World Music Commission are committed to the Tent Partnership for Refugees (TP4R). The TP4R partnership was founded by Turkish Billionaire Hamdi Ulukaya, an is collaborative group of fortune 500 companies and NGO’s engaging in world-wide refugee solutions through private sector engagement. https://tent.org/members. Mykesha has also enjoyed a career in public service as a strategist in Advance Planning for a U.S. President. She enjoys community service by giving back, attending musical events and volunteering to support her children’s education.


Vanda Ayrapetyan

Vanda Ayrapetyan was born in Armenia and raised in Los Angeles. She received her Bachelors in Political Science (minor in Russian Studies) from Occidental College in LA. Vanda also earned a Master’s degree in International Economic Affairs from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in DC. Currently, Vanda is a Relationship Banker for Citi’s Public Sector Group within the Corporate and Investment Bank, helping manage the Bank’s client portfolio of state and local government entities. In her spare time, she loves spending time with family and friends, exploring hiking trails, traveling, kickboxing, and international dance and music.


Akın Orbay

Akın Orbay is composer, producer and drummer based in Los Angeles, his vision is to relate to people’s lives and bring perspective through music. Born in Ankara in 1994, he started playing drums at age 15, studying with drummer and percussionist Teymuralp Merter. Coming into Berklee College of Music in 2012, he put the same passion for drumming to write and produce music. Graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2017, he continues to play and produce music around the Los Angeles area, and hopes to bring his vision to life, as well as continue learning different parts of music-making.