Our Founders

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Maya Soetoro-Ng, PhD

Maya serves as an adviser to the Obama Foundation, working closely with their international team to develop programming in the Asia Pacific region.  Prior to her work with the Obama Foundation, she was the Director of the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa where, in addition to leading outreach and development initiatives, she also taught Leadership for Social Change, History of Peace Movements, Peace Education, and Conflict Management for Educators. She was awarded a master’s degree in Secondary Education from NYU's College of Education and a PhD in Multicultural Education from the University of Hawaiʻi. For many years, she worked at the University of Hawaiʻi College of Education where she taught Multicultural Education, Social Studies Methods, and Peace Education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.  Maya has published a number of book contributions as well as a picture book entitled Ladder to the Moon and is currently under contract to write a Young Adult novel entitled Yellowwood.  Maya sits on many voluntary boards and is the co-founder of the nonprofit Ceeds of Peace, which creates peacebuilding action plan workshops for educators, families and community leaders.

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Todd Shuster

Todd Shuster, Managing Partner at Aevitas Creative Management, represents such authors as James S. Hirsch, who wrote the New York Times bestselling Hurricane; Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, author of the bestselling memoir Around the Way Girl; Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman; and Deval L. Patrick, former Governor of Massachusetts. 

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Jennifer Gates

Jennifer Gates, Senior Partner at Aevitas Creative Management, has represented numerous New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors, among them Mira Bartók, author of the bestselling and NBCC Award winner The Memory Palace and the forthcoming The Wonderling; Maya Soetoro-Ng’s Ladder to the Moon; Eva Longoria’s Eva’s Kitchen; Thomas P.M. Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Map; and Chris Gardner’s #1 New York Times bestseller The Pursuit of Happyness.


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Thomas West, Executive Director

Thomas West began his tenure as the inaugural Executive Director of The Peace Studio on September 1, 2019. He first came to know The Peace Studio as a co-producer for the Peace Studio’s Peace First Summit in the fall of 2018, managing and curating all of the day’s artistic performances. Over the past year, Thomas worked as a special projects producer at The Juilliard School under President Damian Woetzel. During his time at Juilliard, Thomas oversaw a symposium celebrating the life of Leonard Bernstein, coordinated the visit of executives from a Fortune 500 company, assisted on a residency for the Grammy-award winning Silkroad Ensemble, facilitated a lecture series given by Oscar-nominated composer Nicholas Britell, coordinated Juilliard Spring Gala performances, and oversaw performances given at Board of Trustees meetings. 

As an entrepreneur and passionate citizen-artist, Thomas founded Collaborative Arts Ensemble in 2017. The organization dedicated to amplifying artists voices around important social issues through cross-disciplinary programming engaged over forty artists and realized 4 interdisciplinary projects over the course of the two years that Thomas served as Executive Director. CAE programs have been performed in New Hampshire, Alabama, Georgia, New York and Rwanda and have been seen by thought-leaders and luminaries such as Bryan Stevenson, Maya Soetoro-Ng, Dawn Upshaw, and Arun Gandhi. 

Thomas is also the co-founder of a program called OperaComp - a laboratory to provide Juilliard singers, composers, and playwrights an opportunity to collaborate on brand new opera scenes. The inaugural workshop and performances took place in 2017 with a second season taking place at National Sawdust (Brooklyn) in 2018. In previous years, Thomas worked diligently to raise awareness and support for arts education in his hometown of Chattanooga, TN - creating an arts leadership program for young people called ReGenerate. The program now in its 7th year, is comprised of 28 sophomores and juniors representing 14 different area high schools in Hamilton County, TN. ReGenerate was a result of Thomas’s initial project entitled “Let Beauty Awaken,” a CD fundraiser and benefit concert that raised almost $16,000 for arts education in Hamilton County. For his fundraising efforts, West was named youth philanthropist of the year by the state of Tennessee.

Thomas is also an NPR's  "From the Top" alumnus, having appeared on the show in 2012 and was recently awarded the From the Top Alumni Leadership Grant for his commitment to being a citizen-artist. 

As a professional opera singer, Thomas has held prestigious residencies at the Tanglewood Music Festival, Chautauqua Institution, and New York Festival of Song and has performed with Opera San Jose and the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera. In 2014, Thomas was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts by President Barack Obama. He holds a BM from the Juilliard School in Vocal Performance.