Licad began her piano studies at the age of three with her mother, Rosario Licad, and later studied with the highly regarded Rosario Picazo. At the age of seven, she made her debut as soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Philippines. She went on to study with Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Cecile Licad's repertoire as an orchestral soloist ranges from the classical repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven to the Romantic literature of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Rachmaninoff to the modern works of Debussy, Ravel, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bartók.
As one of the youngest musicians to receive the prestigious Leventritt Gold Medal in 1981, Cecile won international recognition. Licad has appeared regularly with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Children's Orchestra,and the orchestras of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Phoenix and Vancouver.
Her summer festival appearances have included Tanglewood, the International Music Festival of Seattle, Mostly Mozart Festival (in both New York and Tokyo), the Eastern Music Festival (Greensboro, NC) and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In Europe she has played with the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Bayerisches Rundfunk Orchestra, and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande; in Asia, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, New Japan Philharmonic, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and her native Philippine Philharmonic.
Licad is also recognized as an accomplished chamber musician. She has made television appearances with Mstislav Rostropovich and has performed regularly with ensembles such as the New York Chamber Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Guarneri Quartet, Takács Quartet, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and Music from Marlboro. She also appeared as guest soloist on a European tour with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Cecile Licad has performed in recital with Murray Perahia, Peter Serkin and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, with whom she has appeared at Lincoln Center, Orchestra Hall in Chicago, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C.. She performs regularly with cellist Alban Gerhardt, performing throughout Europe and the United States, including at the Frick Collection in New York City.
She played in 2006 three Chopin's pieces and Liszt's Mephisto Waltz no. 1 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston MA ("The Concert Podcast", live recording available under Creative Commons Music Sharing licence at ).
In 2007, she had a special performance together with her son Otavio Licad Meneses (19 years old at that time) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Cecile Licad has made recordings for Sony and she recently released a new CD of works by Ravel (Le tombeau de Couperin, Gaspard de la Nuit, and Sonatine) on the MusicMasters label and a CD of works by Gottschalk on the Naxos label.