A year ago, 12-year-old Shahar Moshe knew some English from what was taught to her at school, but she never actually dared speak it.

Today, she is in an English speakers’ class and masters the language as though it was her mother tongue.

Her drastic improvement, Moshe explained, is due to her love of singing, which lead her to enroll in a special extracurricular program, the English on Stage workshops.

English on Stage, established in 2005 by professional actress Meirav Zur, started as a traveling theater with its own original plays.

Born and raised in the United States, Zur studied theater and education at Georgia State University and came to Israel to serve in the IDF.

Soon after starting the successful English on Stage, she decided to open drama, singing and dancing workshops.

Yet, something was still missing.

“In high school in America, we had show choirs, where people sing and dance, and I thought: Why don’t we have that in Israel? So I decided to start Glee Plus, where kids sing, dance and act, entirely in English,” Zur told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Inspired by the popular Fox television show Glee, the Glee Plus workshops became so popular that Zur decided to take the idea to the next level and established a national show choir competition which made its debut last spring.

Moshe took part in the first contest where she performed the song “Crazy,” by the band Simple Plan, along with her five teammates.

Although they placed last, Moshe said she enjoyed the process of preparing for the competition.

“It doesn’t really matter that we didn’t win,” she said, “it was really fun to do.”

Zur explained that while she helps them perfect their acts, participants have complete creative freedom.

“I want them to go through whole process of production, creating something from zero, where they control every aspect of the performance and make it happen,” Zur explained.

“That way, they have to do good team work and accept everybody in the group, because they all want to do well. They must work together towards a common goal.”

As far as English is concerned, the competition and workshops are open to both English speakers and kids who have never spoken English before.

“They don’t need to have perfect English, but they do need to love the stage and being in front of an audience,” she added.

Zur said she has seen her students make significant improvements after participating in the workshops, and the competition.

“It’s not just that they learn words in English, it’s the self-confidence that they develop that is most important. They are confident that they speak English, and they have no choice but to use it because everything at the workshop happens in English,” she said.

“Now they understand the importance of pronunciation, which is not something you learn in books or exams. They do everything and more than what they are tested on in school,” Zur continued.

The national Glee Plus competition, open to teams of children between the ages of eight and 15 from across the country, will take place in May at the Bimatron-Mofet theater in Hod Hasharon. A panel of four performing arts professionals will be judging the productions and attributing prizes. This year, first place winners will earn a professional studio recording session.

To date, six teams have already signed up to compete, but Zur hopes to attract more contenders by the time applications close on February 1.

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