Ibarra was born in Anaheim, California, and raised in Houston, Texas. Her parents Bartolome and Herminia Ibarra are both physicians who immigrated from the Philippines. Ibarra is the youngest of five children. She began playing piano at the age of four. In grade school she sang in church and school choirs and played in a punk rock band in high school. While at Sarah Lawrence College in the late 1980s, Ibarra attended a Sun Ra performance which she has credited with kindling her interest in jazz. She also attended the Mannes College The New School for Music, and Goddard College, where she received her B.A. in Music.
Ibarra has lived in New York since 1989.
She has studied with notable jazz and avant-jazz drummers Vernel Fournier, Earl Buster Smith and Milford Graves. She has studied Philippine Kulintang music with National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Artist and USA Artists Danongan "Danny" Kalanduyan as well as the Kalanduyan family in the United States and in Cotabato, Mindanao Philippines.
She was named "Best Percussionist" in the 2010 Downbeat International Readers Poll and "Best Percussionist, Rising Star" in the 2009 Downbeat Critics Poll. Ibarra has been featured on the cover of percussion magazines such as Tom-Tom, September 2010, and Modern Drummer, Changing the Game, December 2010. She is a member of the Modern Drummer Pro-Panel discussion on drumming and music for 2011. Ibarra is a Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth and Paiste Cymbals Artist.
Susie Ibarra continues to tour and perform internationally in music festivals and other venues. She has received music commissions and has performed her work for Zankel Hall in Carnegie Hall, NYC; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; Banlieues Bleues Festival in Paris; Tampere Jazz Happening in Finland; Philippine Women's University in Manila; Lincoln Center in NYC; San Francisco Jazz Festival; TED (conference) in Long Beach, California; Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, Spain; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; De Singel in Antwerp; the Barbican Centre in the United Kingdom.