She was educated in Britain and the United States, and joined the teaching staff of City University, London in 1995 becoming Professor of Music in 1999. Previously, she taught in the University of Reading (Head of Department, 1993–1995) and the St Louis Conservatory, St Louis, USA.
She has composed over 80 published works and her music has been performed in many countries. She has written chamber, vocal, choral, and orchestral music spanning from Elegy-Symphony (St Louis Symphony Orchestra, 1981) to TIrluniau/Landscapes (BBC commission, BBC NOW, Proms 2000); in 1983 she won the ASCAP/Rudolf Nissim Prize for La Belle Dame sans Merci. She has also written about music: as co-editor of the New Grove (Norton) Dictionary of Women Composers, she has been at the forefront of issues concerning gender and music. She also writes on the operas of Harrison Birtwistle, having been commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to write programme essays on both Gawain and The Minotaur. Her most recent CD, Light and Water, is issued on the Deux-Elles label. In 2006 she was awarded the Glyndŵr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales.
- "Rhian Samuel". Stainer & Bell. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
- Heathcote, Graham (16 September 1994). "Welsh music festival devotes month to neglected compositions by women". The Daily Gazette. AP. p. D4. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
- Cambridge Opera Journal,4,2, July 1992, 163-178 and 20,2, Nov, 2008, 215-236.
- [ Rhian Samuel] at Stainer & Bell
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