ResoNation: History and Background

ResoNation: Sacred Sounds Beyond Borders is an annual global music festival sponsored by the Graduate Theological Union. Our mission is to present music that celebrates and heals the human spirit, transcends borders, and engages the whole person and wider community.

A Brief History

ResoNation: Sacred Sounds Beyond Borders is the convergence of two independent initiatives at the Graduate Theological Union. Following the success of "Sustainable Societies: Interreligious, Interdisciplinary Responses," a GTU conference in Spring 2017, two GTU faculty members--Dr. Rita Sherma, director of the Center for Dharma Studies (CDS), and Dr. Kyle Schiefelbein-Guerrero, director of digital learning--started to envision a similar event focused on “sacred sound,” one that would draw upon the rich traditions represented at the GTU and the Bay Area. Both began to connect with others  at the GTU to gauge the interest in an academic conference, similar to Sustainable Societies.

Independently, Dr. Eleanor Shapiro (PhD, '18) a recent GTU graduate and the longtime director of the former Berkeley-based Jewish Music Festival, approached Dr. Deena Aranoff, chair of the GTU Center for Jewish Studies (CJS) and Elizabeth Peña, director of the Center for the Arts & Religion, (CARe) in the summer of 2018, with the idea of launching a sacred world music festival. A coordinating committee seeking to bring together the two concepts was initiated in September 2018.

Sponsored by the Graduate Theological Union, the most comprehensive center for the graduate study of religion in North America, ResoNation celebrates the global diversity of sacred music in ways that will illuminate, entertain, and engage. We have an expansive understanding of what constitutes the sacred, interpreting “sacred sounds” as those that inspire the spirit and create a sense of wholeness, wellness, and liberation. With leadership from the GTU’s Center for the Arts & Religion and representation from academic centers and schools representing a wide spectrum of the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions, ResoNation will showcase musical events that highlight performance, participation, and inclusivity. Our aim is to create an international community of artists and scholars that come together to celebrate values of healing and human well-being.


Membership in the Organizing Committee and Advisory Council is evolving.  Our intent is to represent a wide diversity of spiritual traditions.

Organizing Committee (as of February 2019) 

  • Dr. Rebecca K. Esterson, Assistant Professor of Sacred Texts and Traditions, Dorothea Harvey Professor of Swedenborgian Studies, Center for Swedenborgian Studies, GTU; Member of the Threshold Choir. 
  • Rev. Dr. Nancy Hall, Associate Professor of Ministry and Congregational Music, Director of Contextual Education, American Baptist Seminary of the West: President of Advisory Committee, Center for the Arts & Religion, GTU: Pastor, First Baptist Church of Berkeley; former editor of The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song.
  • Rev. Ann Jefferson, Director of Community Life and Spiritual Care, Pacific School of Religion; Pastor of Worship & Liturgy at City of Refuge UCC, Oakland; Creator, Love Beyond Margins music project.
  • Dr. Kyle Schiefelbein-Guerrero, Director of Digital Learning and Lecturer GTU; Senior Adjunct of Liturgical and Theological Studies at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary.
  • Dr. Eleanor Shapiro, Adjunct, Center for the Arts & Religion, GTU; former director of the Berkeley-based Jewish Music Festival; Member of the Threshold Choir.
  • Stefan Waligur, Third year GTU Ph.D. student; served as Liturgical Musician for the ecumenical Church of the Saviour and Music Director at Theological College, both in Washington, DC; led chanting sessions at the National Cathedral. Trained at the New England Conservatory, his music has been performed by the Chamber Brass of Boston, the Artaria String Quartet, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
  • Lydia Webster, Assistant Curator, Center for the Arts & Religion, GTU; member of the St. Mark's Episcopal Church Choir.
  • Rev. Dr. Doniel Mark Wilson, Lecturer, UC Berkeley Department of Music, Director of the UC Berkeley Gospel Choir; Faculty, St. Mary’s College, School of Liberal Arts: Sociology.

Advisory Council

  • Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, president of the Graduate Theological Union; former president of Hebrew College (Newton, MA); former chair of the Boston Theological Institute.
  • Dr. Rita Sherma, Director of the Center for Dharma Studies, Associate Professor of Dharma Studies, GTU
  • Dr. Elizabeth Peña, Director, Center for the Arts & Religion, Senior Lecturer in Art, Anthropology, and Museum Studies, GTU.
  • Derek Tam, Music Director, at First Congregational Church of Berkeley; founder, Resonance concert series; soloist with MUSA, a San Francisco-based Baroque chamber ensemble, and fortepianist with the Costanoan Trio.
  • Cynthia Cox, Professor and Chair of the Music Department, UC Berkeley
  • Frank London, Grammy Award-winning composer and trumpeter; founding and current member of the internationally-renowned band, the Klezmatics; former artistic director of KlezKanada; co-founder and co-artistic director of Yiddish New York.


Co-Sponsors (to date)

  • Berkeley Civic Arts Commission
  • Center for the Arts & Religion, GTU
  • Pacific School of Religion
  • Center for Islamic Studies, GTU
  • Center for Swedenborgian Studies, GTU
  • Mira and Ajay Shingal Center for Dharma Studies, GTU
  • Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies, GTU
  • Church Divinity School of the Pacific 
  • Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
  • Leonard Kurz, Kurz Family
  • First Baptist Church of Berkeley
  • Jewish Community of the East Bay
  • Paul Dresher Ensemble

  • American Baptist Seminary of the West

  • Excellent Packaging & Supply, Richmond