Dr Rita McAllister was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. She undertook her undergraduate studies at the University of Glasgow, graduating BMus with first class honours. At the same time she was a part time student at the RSAMD studying piano with Wight Henderson and viola with Frieda Peters.
She studied composition with Anthony Hedges and Robin Orr, and won the first BBC Scotland Young Composer’s prize in 1966. In the late1960s she spent three years at the University of Cambridge researching the operas of Sergei Prokofiev; she completed her PhD in 1970.
Her work on Prokofiev resulted in intensive work in Moscow, St Petersburg and throughout the southern USSR. In the 1970s and 1980s she broadcast and published extensively on many aspects of Soviet and Russian music. Her compositions from this time include chamber works,song cycles and works for music theatre, as well as electro-acoustic pieces.
From 1969 she was a lecturer in the Faculty of Music at the University of Edinburgh, teaching composition, twentieth-century history and analysis, and established the electronic and recording studios there. She was appointed Director of Music at the Academy in 1986, and from 1996 to 2006 she was additionally Vice-Principal.
She has held a number of important appointments in music and education with national bodies in the UK. She continues to research, write and compose, and is the instigator and Artistic Director
of Celtic Cossack Connections.