Sam Hayden studied with Martin Butler, Michael Finnissy and Jonathan Harvey (University of Sussex), Louis Andriessen (Royal Conservatory, The Hague) and Brian Ferneyhough (Stanford University). He won first prize in the 1995 Benjamin Britten International Competition and the 2003 Christoph Delz Foundation Competition for Composers. Commissions include works for BBCSO, Séverine Ballon, Christopher Redgate/Cikada, ELISION, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Ensemble Mosaik, Mats Scheidegger, Frode Haltli/Oslo Sinfonietta and Quatuor Diotima, performed at festivals including Ars Musica, BBC Proms, Música Contemporánea Fundación BBVA, Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, HCMF, Festival Images Sonores, MaerzMusik, Spitalfields, Tage für Neue Musik Zürich, Ultima and Warsaw Autumn.

Sam was shortlisted for selection to represent the ISCM British Section at the World New Music Days Festival 2025 in Portugal.