updated 11/15/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/15/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST
Born in Manila, the daughter of a surgeon and a concert pianist turned teacher, Cecile debuted at 7 with Manila's University of the East orchestra. She soon caught the eye of Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos, who sent her to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and with the celebrated Rudolf Serkin when she was 11. Suffering from the cold climate and her own shyness, Licad practiced five hours a day after school and gorged on street-vendor hot dogs, "one from one corner, then one from the next." Life was even lonelier in Vermont, where she went at 16 to study with Serkin and to play at his festival in Marlboro.
Mrs. Marcos flew to Washington last year to hear her protégée play at the Kennedy Center (bearing an embroidered gown for Cecile), then tossed her a big reception. "If I'd known Mar-got Fonteyn and Van Cliburn were going to be there, I really would have been nervous," says Licad. But she reserves her highest reverence for Serkin. "He taught me to think about the music itself, but he insists I play like me, not him." Serkin returns the compliment. "Cecile has an incredible instinct for all kinds of music. Nobody could teach her that. It's her own."