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2022 Graduates: Kevin Semelbauer Makes the Most of School Through Band

Kevin Semelbauer was a band kid who found their place at Loy Norrix High School playing clarinet. 

Talking to them, it’s easy to see that the joy of making music is a huge part of their identity. 

But, they laugh, clarinet was definitely not their first choice of instrument in middle school. 

“I initially wanted to do trumpet or percussion,” Semelbauer said, “but I was terrible at trumpet, and there were already enough percussionists in sixth grade band, so I tried clarinet and found I was good at it — and I liked it.” 

And, they only got better, finding a place as the section leader in marching band and concert band, and eventually joining the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra. 

Semelbauer, 17, is the son of Chris and Todd Semelbauer. They attended Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School and Milwood Magnet School: A Center for Math, Technology and Science, before moving to Loy Norrix. 

Eventually, as a rising sophomore, Semelbauer began private clarinet lessons with Georgiy Borisov, the principal clarinetist with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. 

“Working with a private teacher has been amazing for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I weren’t taking private lessons,” Semelbauer said. 

“It’s really nice to be able to work one-on-one with a teacher,” Semelbauer said. “You get to work on things that are very specific to what you are interested in. Plus, you can generally work to a much higher standard than just playing notes and rhythms accurately.” 

Although Semelbauer once considered pursuing music in college, they now plan to begin studying computer programming at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in the fall. 

Still, music has been a huge part of their identity, whether it was attending band camp, making friends with other band members, playing in the pit for school plays, or being a member of Kalamazoo Kids in Tune. 

Semelbauer has also been a member of the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony Orchestra for three years and has been a member of the KJSO’s Woodwind Trio. 

“I love every concert I did with the KJSO,” they said. “It’s a really cool experience to be able to play with a really high level group like that. It can be nerve-wracking as well if you have important solos or exposed moments.” 

As a Norrix student, Semelbaur’s other activities have included performing with Master Singers, the school’s most advanced choir; being a member of the bowling team; and, most recently, joining the GSA, or Gender and Sexuality Alliance. 

“For a long time I thought I was cisgender and straight — I don’t want to get into specifics but last year after a lot of questioning‚ I found out that I was part of the LGBTQ community,” they said. “I am aromantic, asexual and nonbinary. 

“When I found out Norrix had a GSA, I thought I should probably join that.” 

GSA advisor John Kreider praised Semelbauer as “a unique individual, a virtuoso clarinet player, a computer programming whiz, a Rubik’s cube whiz, and an awesome GSA kiddo.”