Richard Alan Beirach was born on 23 May 1947 in Brooklyn, New York City. Having a sheltered childhood, he started playing the piano at the age of 5. From age 6 to age 18, Beirach was given lessons by the pianist und composer James Palmieri. James Palmieri showed me everything that I know about music,...he made me understand the deeper meaning of music.
Palmieri's lessons were strictly classic and until age 13, Beirach exclusively dealt with classical music.When, at the age of 13, he stayed at a friend's place, he heard Red Garland's version of Billy Boy from Miles Davis' album Milestones: I could hardly believe it. This was exactly what I was looking for, what I needed. Until then, I had only had a classical musical education: Mozart, Beethoven, no improvisation. I took the album to my teacher. He hated it, he hated it a lot…Beirach realized that he wanted to devote himself to improvisation and Jazz. He tried and got in touch with Jazz musicians, while continuing to take lessons with Palmieri.
In the middle of the 1960s, Richard Beirach entered the New York club scene, played innumerable gigs and jam sessions, with, among others, Freddie Hubbard and Lee Konitz, while, at the same time occasionally working as a longshoreman at the docks of New York.In 1967, he went to Boston in order to study at the Berklee College Of Music, where Keith Jarrett, Miroslav Vitous and John Abercrombie were enrolled as well at that time. But he only stayed for one year and returned to New York in 1968, where he started a composition degree with Ludmilla Ulehla at the Manhattan School Of Music, from which he graduated in 1972 with a Master Of Music.