The American Dream: Participants

Monsignor John A. Ecker, narrator. Monsignor John A. Ecker was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, where he attended St. John’s Seminary and was ordained in 1958 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. After several years ‘on loan’ to the Yakima Diocese, where he was assigned to St. Paul Cathedral and taught at Central Catholic and Marquette High School, he was released in 1967 to serve as Chaplain with the U.S. Navy. Over the following eight years, Ecker served at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia; with the First and Third Marine Divisions in Vietnam; at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, with funeral duties at Arlington Cemetery; on the U.S.S. Ticonderoga (CVS-14), including recovery of space capsules from Apollo and Skylab missions; and with the Seventh Marines at Camp Pendleton, California. Awarded the Bronze Star for valor, he continued to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve until his retirement in 1989 at the rank of Captain.

In 1975, he returned to Yakima as Pastor of the Holy Family Parish, then served as Founding Pastor of the Parish of the Holy Spirit in Kennewick. Since 1988, Ecker has been Pastor of St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima, serving at various times as Chairperson of the Council of Priests and as Vocation Director of the Diocese. Active in Ecumenical and Interfaith concerns since 1964, he has served as President of the Yakima Association of Churches, on the board of the Yakima Interfaith Coalition, and as a member of the Yakima Association of Churches and Faith Communities. He was created Chaplain to His Holiness by Pope John Paul II in 1996 and appointed Vicar-General of the Diocese in 2002. On September 23rd, 2005, he was created Prelate of Honor by Pope Benedict XVI, with the title “Monsignor.”

Throughout his career, Monsignor Ecker has brought humility, optimism, humor and compassion to his work in the best and worst of times. The YSO is honored this evening to recognize his many years of service to the United States and to the Yakima Valley.

Michele M. Mariana, actor. Michele M. Mariana is an accomplished actor, voice actor and concert artist whose work is known and respected internationally.  Her premiere performance at New York’s Lincoln Center was Bruce Adolphe’s “Marita and Her Heart’s Desire” with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which she subsequently recorded with them and Itzhak Perlman marking the Center’s first Family recording. She originated all the characters and the narrator in the world premiere with Mr. Adolphe, David Schifrin, and Chamber Music Northwest. Proudly receiving her Actor’s Equity Card from Joseph Papp, her premiere performance at New York’s Public Theatre was with Eric Bogosian in Talk Radio, which she helped originate, creating all the female and a couple of the male roles in the world premiere with Mr. Bogosian and Tad Savinar at Portland’s PCVA. She recreated roles in the film version directed by Oliver Stone.

She has been the guest artist in concert and in the studio with Third Angle New Music Ensemble on numerous occasions as the solo voice actor on pieces specifically written for her, including world premieres of Bryan Johansen’s “The Bremen Town Musicians,” which was recorded and then made its East Coast premiere at Lincoln Center, and Robert Kyr’s “Serpentine Variations: The Serpent King.” She also performed in the TBA Festival premiere with performance artist and composer Rinde Eckert, in his “The Finsterwald Diaries,” the West Coast premiere of John Cage’s “The City Wears A Slouch Hat,” and as the Devil in Third Angle’s recording of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale with Maestro James DePreist, which she later revisited as the sole voice artist with Neil DePonte and principal players of the Oregon Symphony and Oregon Ballet Theatre, and in Hearing Voices with author Sherman Alexie and Maestro Gregory Vadja. Other performances and recordings include Mr. Adolphe’s Oceanophony, Christopher Walker’s The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Saint John, and “Holy War” with jazz great Gary Hobbs. She was also a guest vocalist at the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz. She records with various labels including Gagliano, Wanna Cracker Music, Telarc and Oregon Catholic Press.

Some highlights from Mariana’s extensive career in theater, film and television include Little Gem with Corrib Irish Theatre, 4,000 Miles and The Coleman Family’s Omission with Boom Arts, Kindertransport and Charlotte Solomon with the Jewish Theatre Collaborative, and a Drammy- and PAMTA-award-winning turn as Fraulein Schneider in Portland Center Stage’s production of Cabaret. Films include What the Bleep Do We Know, Not Dead YetBucksville and The House of Last Things. Numerous Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated projects with Will Vinton Studios include The Little Prince, Dinosaur and The Adventures of Mark Twain, Sesame Street (Cecile Ball and Gloria Globe), Reading Rainbow, Rug Rats and Disney (Baby Daisy and The Pin Cushion Secretary in Halloween Town). She sang as Misses Spink and Forcible in LAIKA’s premiere Golden Globe- and Oscar-nominated feature film Coraline, and had two guest star appearances, Mrs. Rose Garcia and Mrs. Lopez, on Grimm. She is a founding member of INTERACT Theatre Co. of Los Angeles, Cygnet Productions of Portland, BAMM, and the Northwest Theatre of the Deaf.  She is also a proud member of Actor’s Equity and SAG-AFTRA.

Michele is honored to be making her Yakima Symphony Orchestra debut in this beautiful and timely piece. 

Robert Vickers, actor. Robert Vickers is a veteran actor of the Warehouse Theatre Company and Akin Center Theater of Yakima. His credits include Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, Michael Snow in I Do, I Do, and many other supporting roles. He’s also a Financial Planner and has owned a business in Yakima for nearly 24 years. He and his wife Lisa are proud parents of two children, Ian and Isabella






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