Richard Swanson grew up in the small towns of Big Rapids, Michigan and Grand Ledge, Michigan. While he was a junior in high school, he became interested in pipe organ building after observing the moving and reinstallation of a 1929 Möller by the factory. After graduating from high school, he went to work for a series of three organ companies over five years. At Schantz Organ Company, he received training as a flue pipe voicer and tonal finisher. This was followed by a period in which he received a college education and worked many years as a mechanical designer at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University while designing and voicing organs for the Fowler Organ Company on a part-time basis. In 1990, he established his own company, R.T. Swanson, Inc. Since then he has built or rebuilt 31 organs and has assisted other organbuilders with their projects. In 2015, R. T. Swanson, Inc. acquired the website from Tom Mierau.