Laurie Ruth Semmes was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Raised in Manitowoc, she attended Lawrence University and, in 1983, earned the Bachelor of Music degree in music education. Laurie went on to complete the Master of Arts degree, also in music education, at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester in 1985.
Relocating to Sarasota, Florida, Laurie served as a private school band director while performing as a French hornist on a contractual basis. In 1993, she began graduate studies in ethnomusicology at The Florida State University (FSU). After completing the Ph.D. in August of 2002, Laurie was hired by FSU to fill a one-year visiting assistant professorship. In August of 2003, Laurie accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology in the Mariam Cannon Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University, where, in 2009, she was awarded tenure and promotion to the associate professor level. In 2019, she was promoted to the rank of Full Professor.
Laurie's research interests include Ukrainian-American bandura education and performance, the relationship between music and propaganda, Cuban music and culture, and exoticism in the musical theatre. She has presented papers at international conferences in Italy and Ukraine, as well as at national and regional conferences of the Society for Ethnomusicology. She has conducted workshops for the North Carolina Music Educators Association (NCMEA) based on her teaching methodology, which was published in the June 2010 issue of the Music Educators Journal (NAfME) as "Shaker Oats: Fortifying Musicality." In addition to courses in world music and the relationship between music and propaganda, Laurie is also active in the ASU Music Industry Studies program, teaching a one-semester survey of Western music history that introduces students to the rigors of producing live performances of music representative of each era in Western music history.
During the summer of 2012, Laurie spent several weeks in Bali, Indonesia, where she video-documented construction of the gamelan gong kebyar built specifically for the ASU Hayes School of Music, pursuant to a generous donation by the late ASU Professor Emeritus Dr. Max Smith. Her university service also includes the development of negotiations with musicians of La Orquesta Nacionál de Cuba, toward the goal of sharing performance and teaching opportunities among students and faculty of the ASU Hayes School of Music and their counterparts in Havana, Cuba.