Virginia Beach musician hosts a local version of “The Voice”

VIRGINIA BEACH — Jesse Chong has been playing music in Hampton Roads for more than 20 years.

Chong, who plays an eclectic mix of funk, reggae, ska and pop music, has opened for diverse groups such as the Wailers, Maroon 5, INXS, Keller Williams and Snoop Dogg, according to his website.

He has been a staple of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and grew up in Virginia Beach and still lives at the Oceanfront, where he plays many of his shows.

Chong now offers other up and coming musicians a chance at local fame with “The Jesse Chong Audition,” a battle of the bands-style competition for local singers/songwriters.

According to the audition’s Facebook page, 15 musicians will perform in the eight-week-long competition at Lunasea, an Oceanfront restaurant and bar where Chong plays on Tuesdays.

The winner of the audition will receive a three-song recording deal with Richmond-based Will Beasley, digital distribution to iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and 20 other outlets, as well as album art for “a full artist starter package,” Chong said. Sign up for this year’s competition is closed, and the competition started April 24.

The first music audition run by Chong started in November 2017, which also took place in Lunasea. Rick Bozart, who lives in Virginia Beach and said he has been playing music for 30 years, won the 2017 competition.

Bozart said winning the competition was life changing.

“Since winning the competition, I have booked at Lunasea, Chichos, Abby Road, and am working on getting in at the rest of the places around the Oceanfront. Jesse has been a true asset to my musical endeavors and this album has launched me from a starving street musician to a working musician.”

Rick Bozart performing during the 2017 Jesse Chong Audition at Lunasea in Virginia Beach (Courtesy of Jesse Chong)
Rick Bozart performing during the 2017 Jesse Chong Audition at Lunasea in Virginia Beach (Courtesy of Jesse Chong)

Bozart said he doubted his own musical abilities, but winning the Jesse Chong Audition reaffirmed his talent to himself.

“I just kept bringing my A-game to the table each night and the next thing you know I’m a winner and in a recording studio.”

Bozart offers a word of advice for the 2018 slate of musicians auditioning for Chong.

“Never second guess yourself,” Bozart said, “and always know that you were put here in this for a reason.”

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