Rhian Samuel writes music for performers and performance. She believes that the performer contributes creatively to the work, so the composer should always offer him/her the space to make this contribution. Influences on her music include those of her rich Welsh literary and musical heritage, the landscape of her present home in mid-Wales overlooking the Dyfi estuary and Cardigan Bay and her long sojourn in the USA. She is interested in all facets of classical music, particularly early music, and American music of all kinds; in her youth she played the oboe in orchestras and the viol and wind instruments in early music groups. She identifies with her female colleagues in a profession still dominated by males, seeing her position, somewhat outside the male tradition, as an exciting one with many challenges and opportunities, not, as in former times for many women composers, one that must be denied. 

Rhian has written for all kinds of ensembles as well as for solo instruments/voices. Her orchestral works have been premiered by BBCNOW, the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia 21, the Brunel Ensemble, the BT Scottish Ensemble, Sinfonia Adesso and others. Orchestral conductors with whom she has worked include Leonard Slatkin,Tadaaki Otaka, Richard Hickox, Martyn Brabbins, Jac van Steen, Tecwyn Evans, Grant Llewelyn, Andrew Mogrelia, Cayenna Ponchione, George Vass, Joel Revzen, Michael Morgan and Holly Mathieson. Vocal music is also an important part of Rhian's output; she has written works for many renowned solo singers and accompanists. 


The Washington University Madrigal Singers at the White House 
(RS is in the back row, just to the right of the conductor's hand)
Throughout her career she has sung in and conducted choirs and written music for them, including her own choirs at Reading University and City University London UK. (Many years ago, as a student, she even sang in the White House for President Johnson, in the Washington University Madrigal Singers!)  She has written a number of works for  the New College (Oxford) choir and its directors, Edward Higginbottom and Robert Quinney. The choir recorded 'Love bade me welcome' for a CD released in May, 2017. Other choirs that have sung her music include those of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, King's College London, Ithaca College NY, Austin Peay University, TN, Washington University, St Louis, MO, the St Louis Conservatory of Music,  Queen's College Oxford, the Worshipful Company of Singers, the Ardwyn Singers (Cardiff), the National Youth Choir of Wales, Cardiff University Contemporary Music Group, the BBC Singers, as well as high school choirs in the UK and the USA. 

Rhian has collaborated with several women poets in creating her vocal music. She has set poems by American May Sarton with the poet’s express encouragement, worked extensively with the late Anglo-American Anne Stevenson and has set Welsh texts by Nesta Wyn Jones and Ann Griffiths. She does not confine her choice of texts to women poets however; she has also set those of, for instance, Aeschylus (for Clytemnestra), Zulfikar Ghose and Henry Thoreau (Haze and the Absence of Clouds for soprano, string quartet and piano) and, for song cycles for baritone and piano, WW1 poet Charles Sorley (A Swift Radiant Morning) and Samuel Beckett (The Flowing Sand).  

She co-edited The New Grove/Norton Dictionary of Women Composers with Julie Anne Sadie. Her much-quoted preface to this dictionary discusses the situation of women composers over the past 100+ years. She has also written on several of the operas of Harrison Birtwistle, including Gawain, The Minotaur and The Second Mrs Kong, publishing for the two former works both the programme notes for the ROH and diaries of their first productions for the  Cambridge Opera Journal.

In the United States, Rhian taught at Washington University, St Louis, where she completed a doctorate on 16th-century musica ficta, and the St Louis Conservatory of Music; in 1984 she returned to the UK, teaching first at Kings College London, then becoming Lecturer, then Reader, at Reading University. In 1995 she moved to City University, London; she became Professor there and is now Emeritus Professor. At City, she also supervised DMA students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Later, at Oxford University, she was a member of the Music Faculty and tutored composition undergraduates at Magdalen College. She now composes full-time at her home in mid-Wales and in London. 

Most of Rhian Samuel’s music is published by Stainer & Bell Ltd, while a large number of works are published by Tŷ Cerdd. Others are published by Novello, Cadenza, ABRSM, Curiad, Simrock and Andresier/Bardic.