By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files
Celebrated pianist Cecile Licad turns a year older on May 11 coping with varied recital and orchestral program that give her very little time to relax and reflect on both her personal and musical life.
She will observe her special day with her family in Manila while glued on the piano for a recital in Germany and her coming June 21 engagement with Nashville Symphony as soloist in the every popular Tchaikovsky No. 1 under the baton of a beautiful conductor named Kelly Corcoran.
From Nashville, she flies to Manila to debut with the ABS CBN Philharmonic on June 29 and later flying to Germany for a challenging recital program.
Her mother, Mrs. Rosario Buencamino Licad, is not worried about this hectic schedule.
“For my daughter, hard work comes naturally. She knows the importance of discipline, and long practice hours are second nature to her. She is a perfectionist but doesn’t gloat or brag about it. To this day, she always says, ‘I can learn anything from anybody. I don’t have all the answers, and as usual, I am not always contented with how I play,” she said.
Mrs. Licad recalled that her daughter Cecile once told her teacher Rudolf Serkin that she wasn’t happy with her Saint Saens piece at the Kennedy Center Honors, where she shared the limelight with Meryl Streep and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her mentor replied, ‘When you are not contented with how you play, that means you will go far.’”
Named after St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, the pianist then still inside the womb was already fed with classical music.
Mrs. Licad recalled in the months before her birth, her husband, Dr. Jesus V. Licad, used to play classical music in the house. “When I was seven months pregnant with Cecile, I remember attending a soiree where Dr. Licad’s friends sang Spanish songs and a violinist played some masterpieces.”
Could it be possible that the baby she was carrying was affected by the music? Or was it really just a question of genes?
“I am a pianist myself, and she is a grandniece of the composer Francisco Buencamino, whose pieces ‘Larawan’ and ‘Mayon Fantasy’ are standard encore pieces in her concerts. We somehow were always aware that Cecile and music were something special, but we did not fully realize the extent of her talent until much later,” the proud mother said of her gifted daughter.
“ After all,” she rued,” the then very young Buencaminos also started as piano prodigies (like Willie Cruz and Aging Buencamino) and we didn’t make a big deal of that. But I did notice that Cecile had a very unusual interest in the piano at age 2. At a little over 2, she was already a keen observer when I was teaching my piano pupils. At age three and a half, we realized she could already read notes, even before she learned the alphabet. Any music teacher will tell you that it’s hard to teach solfeggio to beginners. But with Cecile, she was not just musical, she could read notes as well.”
But at some point in her young life, the then younger Licad realized that regular practice involved a lot of work and deep concentration. And that, for a normal growing child, was not much fun anymore.
“When she would waver, her Papa would say, ‘If your piano teacher scolds you once, I’ll scold you twice.’ Then I would nag her and say, ‘You forced me to teach you piano, remember? Now that we’ve started this, I want you to become a better pianist than I am,” continued Mrs. Licad.
The author of “My Daughter Cecile” summed up the roles she played in her daughter’s musical life. “First of all, I chose Cecile’s first teacher, Miss Rosario Picazo, and it was the right decision, for it was she who gave Cecile the right foundation. A teacher can make or unmake a gifted child; she can nurture or ruin a talent or she can inspire or turn off a gifted child. My husband and I organized Cecile’s life. Her routine was strictly divided into school time, practice time and piano lesson time. Of course she had play time, but only after school and practice hours.”
Is having a gifted child a blessing or a burden?
“For me, this is the greatest blessing I received from God. Of course, you cannot be lucky in other aspects of your life. But once you are given a gifted child, you have the obligation to nurture that talent in the very best way you can. There is no perfect formula. Just remember patience, understanding, discipline, concentration, focus, a fighting spirit when things go wrong and, with it, yes, lots of humility.”
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)
(The complete program of the June 29, 2013 concert of Cecile Licad with ABS CBN Philharmonic under Gerard Salonga: Beethoven Overture To Egmont Op. 84; Saint-Saens Danse Macabre Op. 40; Liszt Totentanz S. 126; Liszt Symphonic Poem No. 2: Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo, G. 96; Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major, S. 124. For ticket inquiries, call (02) 5763132; 09065104270)