Born in Winchester Ontario, Canada, Richard Irwin was constantly surrounded by music. His father was a multi-instrumentalist and teacher, while his mother, a teacher as well, sang in church with the family. Children's and church choirs were the beginnings of his musical life, and drums and percussion came shortly after. At 11 years old, a school friend invited him over to check out his new kit, and his passion for the instrument began. Noticing that a serious interest had developed, he was sent to learn the fundamentals. Weekly lessons at the Glengarry School of Pipes and Drums taught him every rudiment on the snare, as well as a chance to compete in Scottish events all over North America and Europe at a very early age.
The drum set soon replaced snare competitions, and the Pipe Band was substituted with concert bands, small orchestras, pit bands, and various working bar bands. After high school he went on to study jazz performance at McGill University. Here he performed with dozens of combos, ensembles, and the school's big Bands, where he formed a long lasting relationship with director and trumpeter Ron Dilauro of the Vic Vogel Big Band. Vic needed a drummer, and Ron suggested Rich take over the chair. 15 years later, he continues to play in the band, and has been working in Montreal ever since.
Currently residing in Montreal, Richard plays frequently with Florence K, Julie Lamontagne, Vic Vogel, Dawn Tyler Watson, Al McLean, Jessica Vigneault, Remi Bolduc, the Chateauguay Tenors, Jeff Johnston, Hadrian's Wall, Bill Mahar, Matt Herskowitz, Jean Pierre Zanella, Bruno Pelletier, Dave Gossage, and has toured the world with jazz/pop singer, Nikki Yanofsky. He has performed in venues such as the Blue Note, Dizzy's Club, Catalina's, Ronnie Scott's, the Lincoln Center, L'Olympia, Bell Centre, Air Canada Centre, Saddledome, as well as at major festivals such as the NAMM show, Montreal Drum Fest, the Montreal Jazz Fest, the North Sea Jazz Fest, San Francisco Jazz, the Red Sea Jazz Fest, and many others. He has worked with international artists such as Celine Dion, Freddie Hubbard, Donny McCaslin, Randy Bachman, Denzal Sinclaire, Ingrid Jensen, Gary Smulyan, Jane Bunnet, Yannick Rieux, Paulo Ramos, Kevin Dean, Chucho Valdez, and has shared the stage with dozens of others.