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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

Normal Community student organizes a music concert supporting ocean cleanup

A high schooler in a pink sweatshirt and with braces and glasses smiles at the camera with his hands in his pockets. He stands in front of a bay of lockers with a baby blue mural above that reads "Clear Skies Ahead"
Lauren Warnecke
Charlie Faulkner, a junior at Normal Community High School, arranged a musical concert with local professional musicians and the school's Experimental Music Ensemble for a concert benefitting The Ocean Cleanup. The project is part of a sociology assignment called "The Impact Project." Faulkner stands in front of a mural created by another sociology student for the assignment.

In an ultimate example of students going above and beyond, WGLT profiles two Normal Community High School students in January and February who transformed a sociology project into arts events at the Coffeehouse for all to enjoy. The catch? It’s got to make an impact.

Students in Stefen Robinson’s sociology class at Normal Community High School are working on an assignment he calls “The Impact Project.” To complete the assignment, students must satisfy two bullet points: Do something you care about, and do it in a way that does some sort of social good.

“Other than that, it’s totally open,” said Robinson.

Two students organized upcoming public cultural events at the Coffeehouse in Uptown Normal for the community to enjoy.

First up is Charlie Faulkner, a junior at Normal Community, a guitarist, and a budding concert producer.

Friday night, Faulkner and other musical talents from Bloomington-Normal will play sets at the Coffeehouse — and the lineup is nothing to sneeze at. Faulkner booked V8 Vast Change, Marcos Mendez and Nonlinear Field (for which Robinson plays). Normal Community’s burgeoning Experimental Music Ensemble also will appear. Faulkner plays in the group, which Robinson organized over a year ago with Zachary Sargent, another instructor at NCHS.

Under the umbrella title “Soundwaves,” the concert also is a fundraiser. Faulkner will collect donations at the door for The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit aimed at ridding the oceans and rivers of plastic waste. He first came across the organization on YouTube and thought it would be the perfect cause for The Impact Project.

“I had run into it deep into the pandemic,” Faulkner said of discovering the nonprofit. “So it was kind of a thing where, at the time, I wanted to donate to them because it felt like I had a little bit of control when it was all chaos.”

While the goals of The Ocean Cleanup are more related to people’s relationship with the natural world, Robinson said organizing the concert is what ticks the sociology box.

“Underneath this project is the philosophy that we learn the most by engaging fully with things that we care about,” said Robinson, who also served as Faulkner’s mentor on the project. “Charlie is going to learn the ins and outs of working with people, contacting the venue, talking with (the media), and sending out promos. These are the types of things that he’s not going to get out of a sociology text I give him in the classroom.”

Moreover, Faulkner recognized at a young age that social interactions are rooted in the environments in which people live — environments in existential crisis due to climate change and plastic waste.

“I’m focused on the concert and bringing people together in something that’s fun and engaging, but is proactive and helps out globally in some way that maybe we won’t see the effects of,” said Faulkner. “It’s like planting the seed of a tree that we will never sit in the shade of.”

Faulkner conceived the concert early on in the school year and has been responsible for every aspect, from booking talent, to arranging a venue and promoting the event. The result is months in the making, but Faulkner is mostly just excited to see people come together and enjoy a night of great music. And with sponsorship from Faulkner’s parents to cover the venue fee and all the artists volunteering, every dollar donated will go directly to The Ocean Cleanup.

“You can come and you don’t have to donate. You can come and you can donate a little. You can come and you can donate a lot. I will be fine either way,” Faulkner said. “Just come hang out; it’ll be really fun.”

“Soundwaves: A concert to save our oceans” is from 7-9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at the Coffeehouse & Deli, 114 E. Beaufort St., Normal. All proceeds benefit The Ocean Cleanup.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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