Began her musical education at the age of 7 in the Maria Pajak piano class at the Music Centre in Pszczyna in 1961. Since she was thirteen she continued her education at the primary and secondary level at the Music School in Bielsko Biala, first in the cello class and then in the double bass class under Bonawentura Nancka. In 1978 she graduated from the Music Academy in Wroclaw after completing her double bass studies under Prof. Edward Krysta. She continued to improve her skills as a bassist at the master courses in Weimar under Prof. Ludwig Streicher, and in Lanciano under Prof. Franco Muzzi. In 1982 she defended her PhD (with double bass specialisation) at the Music Academy in Krakow under the artistic supervision of Prof. Wiktor Gadzinski. Since 1980 she has beeen working as a double bass teacher (the Instrument Department) at the Karol Lipinski Music Academy in Wroclaw. She has also followed a successful soloist career in Poland and abroad; she held recitals, among others, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, at the Hochschule fur Musik in Cologne, at the Master Courses in the Stiftung Kloster Michaelstein, and at the International Double Bass Conventions at the American Universities of Indianapolis (2001), Richmond (2003), Michigan(2005) and Oklahoma (2007). Since 1994 she has been playing in a duet with pianist Andrzej Jungiewicz, with whom she recorded a CD, „Meditation Thais”. She has been a principal double bassist at the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and the double bass expert at the Cairo Conservatoire de Musique.
Irena Olkiewicz has been a co-creator, and since 1994 president, of the Polish Society of Double Bassist. In 1996 she started publishing a double bass magazine „KontraBasista”. She has also been an initiator and organizer of numerous courses and festivals: among others, the International Double Bass Master Courses in Wroclaw and in the Wojnowice Castle, the World Bass Festival in Wroclaw, the Polish Winter Double Bass Academy in Pielgrzymowice and the Wratislavia International Double Bass Competition. She directs double bass master courses in Poland, Europe and the US, and sits on the jury at the international double bass competitions in Czech Republic, Germany and the US. She is also an expert in the Polish Ministry of Education. As a chamber musician she recorded five discs with such conductors as C. Grabowski, G. Nowak and G. Olkiewicz. Irena Olkiewicz played the world premiere of the works dedicated to her, among others B. Konowalski’s Poem “Loch Ness”, “Yad Vashem” and „Harlequin”; and K. Zgraja’s “Rondo Flamenco”. She featured in the world premiere of the Sonata by J. G. Goerlich at the Music Festival in Moszna and K. Kielb’s „Entrope” at the Festival of Modern Music Musica Polonica Nova in Wroclaw 2008.
In January 2000 Irena received David Walter Foundation award for her journal “KontraBasista” (cf. David Walter, New York’s Julliard School of Music). She was also the receipient of two Rector’s Prizes (1996, 2005) for her pedagogical work, as well as the Wroclaw Music Award (2004) for the idea and organization of the World Bass Festival in Wroclaw. Finally, she received the Award of Wroclaw Dwarf (2004) given to her by the journalists of the Lower Silesia edition of Gazeta Wyborcza for her artistic projects. She also featured in such international journals as the UK „Double Bassist”, German “Frau und Musik” American “Bass World”, and Polish “Jazz”, „Twój Styl”, „ Życie Warszawy” and „Twoja Muza”.