He was born in Tallinn and studied with Veljo Tormis in his teens, and from 1968, with Heino Eller at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (then Tallinn State Conservatory). After Heino Eller's death in 1970, he studied with Heino Jürisalu, graduating in 1973. He then did postgraduate study at the Moscow Conservatory (1979–1982) with the Russian composer Roman Ledenev. Sumera first came to notice in 1972 with In Memoriam, an orchestral tribute to Eller. He went on to compose six symphonies and numerous chamber and vocal works which have been played by orchestras throughout North America and Europe as well as in Australia and Cuba.