The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra performs the world premiere of Sumi Tonooka’s Sketch At Seven, December 29, 2023 with conductor Jory Fankuchen.

“The inspiration for Sketch at Seven is a sketch book of drawings and musical journals that I made when I was very young that was sent back to me after some forty years. When I opened the sketchbook it was like a doorway into the past and future, mysterious and profound.”

More details here.

Sumi Tonooka at piano... Photo: Daniel Sheehan

Sumi Tonooka and fellow artists, Karen Smith and Samantha Rise are among The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage’s 2023 grantees. The Fellowships program provides direct support to the Philadelphia region’s most talented artists, working in all disciplines.

Over the past 31 years, Pew Fellows have made an impact regionally, nationally, and internationally: They have been recognized with numerous prestigious grants and awards, and have had their work presented in 49 US states and more than 60 countries.

In becoming a Pew Fellow, Tonooka said “This gives me the opportunity to reassess what it is that I hold, and make some decisions about how to move forward in the most authentic and joyful way.”

The Picture Taker – Trailer

Sumi composed and performed original music added to Erin O’Hara’s original film score in the award winning documentary, The Picture Taker (directed by Phil Bertelsen and produced by Lise Yasui). It’s about the life and work of photographer Ernest Withers, whose path intersected key flash points in 20th century history.

Withers developed over a million images that came to define America’s civil rights struggle. He photographed the Emmett Till murder trial, the desegregation of Little Rock High, the Montgomery bus and Memphis sanitation workers strikes and was behind the scenes with Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Despite his commitment to truth-telling through photojournalism, Withers took a closely-guarded secret to his grave: for over a decade of his professional career, he worked for the FBI.