2023 finalists

see them perform LIVE at the proteus music contest finals

October 6, 7:30pm


Chloe Youtsey


Chloe Youtsey is a military kid, and after moving all over the world and feeling like an alien to the United States, she fell into jazz at the very end of high school and ended up getting a degree in voice. She started playing restaurants/wineries/weddings etc. in 2014 right here in Hampton Roads, and moved to Austin in 2018 and lived there for 5 years and similarly worked, blessed to essentially gig full-time (4-6 spots a week) while growing my family. Moved back here to the 757 a year ago and haven't played a single show in the area. 🙂 Just had a baby in May. Trying to get back to it and dying for musical friends.

Sister Whisper


Sister Whisper is an indie music duo consisting of songwriter Heather Eddy and producer Owen Eddy. They are currently based in Virginia Beach but they have lived in 5 different states in the past 12 years. Sister Whisper creates music that blends elements of contemporary pop, folk and classical music. Heather’s frank lyrics and haunting vocals are complemented by Owen’s lush film-score like production. Owen is currently an audio engineer instructor and music arranger at the U.S. Army School of Music and Heather is a music teacher in Virginia Beach.

mari cornell


Born in the heart of Nashville Tennessee, Mari Cornell grew up in churches, blues bars, and honky tonks. At eleven years old, Mari’s grandparents gifted her first guitar. From that moment on, Mari knew exactly how she wanted to spend the rest of her life. When she was twelve years old, she moved to a farming town in southern Georgia. Playing clarinet in her school's traveling marching band, she developed her ear further still, as she never learned how to read music. At seventeen, she and her mother moved to Virginia Beach. That is when she began working as an Attractions Attendant at an arcade in Town Center. A guest purchasing a game card told her about “Live! On Atlantic”. She signed up, auditioned, and inadvertently became a part of something much bigger than herself. After two years of singing on street corners, Mari had the pivotal pleasure of meeting BJ Griffin. And the rest is history.



ERA$ is a gifted singer, songwriter, and performer hailing from Virginia Beach, Virginia. She has crafted a unique and captivating musical identity, from her ethereal melodies to her enchanting rhythms, she takes listeners on a journey through time and emotion. Her first single “RAIN” was released in June of 2022 and captured the hearts of audiences from all around. Her songwriting is a reflection of her introspective spirit, navigating the complexities of life, love, and personal growth with a lyrical finesse that's both relatable and profound.
But her journey goes beyond crafting melodies in the studio. Having amazing opportunities to perform at notable shows such as Something In the Water, ECSC, and Vibe Fest, ERA$ remains grateful for the chance to connect with audiences on a deeper level. Each show is not just a performance, but a shared experience. A moment where ERA$ and her listeners become intertwined by a symphony of sound and energy. Dive into the mesmerizing world of soundscapes and emotion with the musical talent known as ERA$.

robert dg








I'm a guitarist pursuing my dream to becoming a great singer and successful singer-songwriter. Originally from New York, I was living and working in Tokyo, Japan for 11 years before the pandemic. I suffered a great deal of loss due to the Covid-19 epidemic and I'm starting over from zero here in Virginia Beach. I wanted to give up on my music but decided that's not an option and I'm now working on my craft and beginning to put myself out there.

Submissions for the 2023 Proteus Music Contest have ended. 

  1. To submit for this contest you must complete this Google form:
    1. A submission will only be accepted if the Google form is filled out in its entirety. If any information is missing or incomplete that entry will be deemed ineligible and the Entrant will have to send a new submission for consideration.
    2. Submissions will be accepted beginning 12:00am on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 through 11:59pm on Tuesday September 5, 2023. Any submissions received outside of this timeframe will not be reviewed nor considered. 

The Proteus Festival Music Contest is for emerging and early-career musical artists. The contest is hosted in 3 stages:

1- Submissions

2- Audience Voting & Finalist Selection

3- Finalist Competition Concert

Submissions are accepted online from August 15, 2023 to September 5, 2023. After submissions close they will be available online for audience voting. The submission with the most audience votes will move forward to the finals as the “audience favorite” and the selection committee will choose the remaining 4 finalists. The five finalists will then perform for a live audience at Proteus Festival, where the winner will be selected by a panel of music industry professionals. The grand prize is a headlining concert in the Live at The Z Music Series and a recording package in The Z’s recording studio. 

Submissions are accepted from Tuesday, August 15, 2023 to September 5, 2023

Audience voting will be online from Thursday, September 7, 2023 to Thursday, September 14, 2023       

Finalists announced on Friday, September 15, 2023

Proteus Festival Music Contest Finals will take place Friday, October 6, 2023 

  1. All ages are welcome! Please note that any entrant deemed a minor according to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia will be required to obtain and submit written permission from their parent or legal guardian to participate in the contest.
  2. Entrants may not be currently signed to a recording contract with national distribution.
  3. Entrants must be residents of the U.S. The Z is unable to support special visas in support of any performances arising from this contest. 
  4. Entrants must be available to perform at the Finals concert on October 6, 2023.
  5. The Z is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive community. The Z’s artistic staff may reject any submission deemed not in line with this policy, such as entries with messages that are derogatory toward other groups, based on gender, race, color, religion, age, nationality, disability or other characteristic. Any rejection on such grounds will be based on the perceived artistic merit of the entry in accordance with The Z’s mission and values. Any Entrant submitting such material may be banned from future contests at The Z. 


  1. Entrants must be the owner of all content submitted through this contest. The Entrant’s submission to this contest serves as the Entrant’s warrant that the entry is an original work.  
  2. The video submission must be unique to this contest. In other words, it must have been created for the purpose of entering this Contest. The entry may not have been previously published or posted online or entered into any other contest or competition. Once the entry has been successfully received by the contest the Entrant is free to publish or post it publicly.
  3. Entrants are allowed one (1) entry as a lead artist and one (1) entry as a supporting ensemble member.
    1. Any entries submitted after this number is reached by an entrant will be rendered ineligible.
    2. Once a submission is approved it cannot be removed and will remain the primary submission of the Entrant.
  4. All artists who perform in the submission video must be available to perform for the finals. Exceptions may be made for issues related to public health and will be reviewed on a case to case basis. 
  5. Finalists will be required to participate in media interviews and will make themselves available upon request. Interviews may be conducted in-person, virtually, or over the phone. 
  6. Submitting for this contest will serve as a media and likeness release. Any photos or video included in the entrants submission can be used for  publicity and marketing including Social Media, Web, and Print.
  7. Submissions may be under review for up to three business days before appearing live for voting.

This Contest is a talent, performance, and skilled-based event. Entries and Finalists will be judged on the following criteria:

    1. Melody & Lyrics(if applicable)
    2. Musical composition
    3. Originality
    4. Execution
    5. Performance 
  1. Finalist Selection
    1. Five (5) finalists will be chosen from all the entries. One (1) finalist will be selected through audience voting and the other four (4) finalists will be selected by committee. 
    2. Finalists will be notified via e-mail and results will be posted on The Z’s website. Entrants that do not place in the contest will not receive individual notification. 
  2. Finalist Performance
    1. At the October 6th concert each finalist will have a 10-minute performance slot. The finalist may use less than 10 minutes without penalty, but if the finalist goes over the 10-minute time limit points will be deducted from their final score at the discretion of the judges and representatives of The Z. 
    2. A house band will be available to the 5 finalists to use as support for their performance in the October 6, 2023 concert. Finalists must confirm with The Z’s Music Series Producer their intention to use the house band and must provide lead sheets/charts for the song(s) they intend to perform no later than Monday September 18, 2023. 
    3. The house band will learn 1 song per entrant. 
    4. Entrant must be available to rehearse with the house band on the evening of September 25th or October 2nd at The Z.
  3. Winner Selection
    1. The finalists will be judged solely on their individual performance at the Proteus Music Contest Finals Concert. 
    2. The winner is selected by the total numerical score of the judge sheets. The finalist with the highest score is the winner. 
    3. In case of a tie for the highest score, a winner may be determined through additional discussion with the judges and representatives of The Z. The Z may also determine there is a winner and a runner-up, or there may be 2 winners. 
  4. Prizes
    1. The winner will receive a headlining concert in The Z’s Live at The Z Music Series to take place April 19, 2024, a 4-hour recording session at The Z’s Main Stage Recording Studio, and a complimentary one-year Artist Membership for The Z’s 2023-2024 season. 
    2. A Runner-up may also be selected and will receive a supporting performance slot in The Z’s season and a recording session at The Z. 
    3. All finalists will have a one hour coaching session with Big Juicy Entertainment in preparation for their performance in the finals. The winner will work with Big Juicy Entertainment in producing their concert at The Z.
  5. Travel
    1. Travel to Virginia Beach is required if selected as a finalist and if selected as a winner. All travel costs will be the sole responsibility of the Entrant.