A PIANIST who has taught for 50 years is among those using new technology to continue lessons for pupils of Keighley Musicians Centre.

Reg Hargreaves is one of 12 tutors who have retained their 350 pupils by teaching instrumental and singing lessons over the Internet.

The centre is using the Zoom platform on PCs, tablets and mobile phones so that teachers and pupils can interact in real-time on video.

Reg, who teaches piano and keyboard to all ages, was one of the first tutors to work from the Musicians Centre soon after it opened in Cavendish Street.

Soon afterwards, in 1952, he pioneered a revolutionary American method of teaching organ to up to six people at a time in the same room.

Now Reg is once again in the vanguard of technology, one of a team of tutors who have given a new meaning to 'face-to-face lessons'.

As the coronavirus began to bite last month the Musicians Centre had to close its classrooms, music shop and performance venue at the top of Russell Street.

Musicians Centre boss Michael Watmough said: "We moved really quickly to get all our teachers set up to teach students from their homes to the pupils' homes, and we're really pleased with how it's going.

"It's helped us continue to bring money on for everyone as well as keep pupils playing. There's the added benefit that everyone everyone is stuck at home so there's no excuse not to practice!

"It's been a learning curve, but everyone is on board and thankful they can carry on in some capacity. Reg took on the mantle and he's really enjoying this new way. He has such a passion for teaching.

Michael said he had been considering trying out video teaching for several years, and started out last year when one of the popular teachers moved away but pupils wanted to continue with her.

He added: "We try to keep the lessons as similar as we can. They are booked in at the same time, and are the same length. In some ways it's better – pupils have the teacher in front of them, and the lessons are recorded so they can play them back later.

"When we go back to teaching face-to-face we can learn how this will benefit our normal lessons. The teachers are excited about it. We're building our own bespoke software to host the videos."

Reg had originally followed in the footsteps of his musician grandfather, who played piano during cinema screenings of silent movies in the 1920s.

He was already a seasoned professional organ player in the early 1970s when he first forged links with the Musicians Centre.

With two other resident musicians he supported well-known singers when they appeared at Keighley Variety Club in North Street.

When Ken North, a drummer in the club circuit, opened the Musicians Centre, Reg went down to check it out.

Reg said: “Ken asked if I could do some selling during the day but I wasn’t really a good salesman.”

Six months later a salesman visited from the Baldwin company, asking Reg to teach electric organ in the shop using the company’s new machines.

He went on to teach the grandchildren of some of the people he originally tutored back in the 1970s.

The group teaching method has not changed much from the original Baldwin method, with Reg using headphones to switch between the playing of his various pupils.

He said: “I can sit at my keyboard and listen to them. They get nervous if I’m at the side of them. It takes a lot of time to instil confidence in them.”

During his time at the Musicians Centre, Reg continued to perform professionally, with everything from cruise liner groups to big bands and small jazz ensembles to accompaniment for singers. His speciality was jazz music.