coco jones*(Via Yahoo news) – One of the premier music festivals celebrating black culture and music is branching out, extending its footprint in its 18th year to embrace the next generation of artists while still trumpeting industry veterans such as Aretha Franklin.

The Essence Music Festival has added a fourth day to its concert series in New Orleans. On Thursday — its opening day — Essence will focus solely on youth, including rapper Diggy Simmons, the Disney Channel’s Coco Jones (pictured), the OMG Girlz and New Orleans’ own The Roots of Music.

Essence runs through Sunday with performances set for the Superdome.

“I’ve never been, but I know it’s important,” said 14-year-old Coco, who was discovered on the Disney Channel’s “Next Big Thing” and starred in its TV musical movie “Let It Shine,” which aired last month.

Coco will debut music from her yet-to-be-named album due out next year. She plans to deliver a high-energy show packed with tight choreography and some theatrical elements.

“I’m excited for everybody to see it,” she said. “Sometimes just singing alone can be boring, but when you have dancers, and B-boys and flipping, it adds so much excitement to the show.”

On Sunday, the Queen of Soul will be crowned with the Essence “Power Award” for four decades of hits including “Respect,” ”I Say a Little Prayer,” ”Chain of Fools,” ”Think” and “Son of a Preacher Man.”

Read/learn more at Yahoo News.