Music swells above the field behind Rowan County Middle School where the high school marching band rehearses. Brass instruments and woodwinds can be heard far beyond the practice area. Band Director Nickolaus Diedrichsen has his full attention on his percussionists, encouraging them silently with nods and smiles.
It's quite different from the music he played later that night, a groovy reggae set that fills each corner of the dim-lit Cheapside Bar & Grill in Lexington. It's not his first choice in music – that's jazz – but the rhythm of his drums doesn't give him away.
But he loves all music and always has.
“I never remember a time in my life when music wasn’t one of the most important things,” he says.
Originally from Lordship, Connecticut, he came to Kentucky to attend Morehead State University as a Music Education major. On campus, he met his wife, Hannah, who studied theater and vocals.
“I had to compete with his drumming,” she jokes, looking back at the beginning of their relationship. “'Must drum' should be his motto.”
He also is a middle school music teacher, an amateur hunter and a family man. His sons Louis, 4, and Sam, 2, share his love for music, often singing, humming or trying to play his drums at home.
At the Rowan County Middle School, he teaches band, piano and recently he got the opportunity to join his love for drumming with teaching a class called Viking Success. The 45-minute class is on a four-and-a-half-week rotation, where middle schoolers who don’t need extra help in reading and math take an elective.
Leann Akers, who met Nickolaus in college and whose son Wiley is in the marching band, credits him with being instrumental to her son’s love of music.
“He’ll listen to jazz music at home, where other kids are listening to pop music," she says "That’s because Mr. D. is like, ‘you have to listen to this musician,’” she says.
The class presents a teaching challenge. “It’s a class that’s designed for the kids to have fun," he says. "I’m teaching non-band students about my own instrument. I’ve never done that before.”