Now, aged 23, Cecilia has more than proved that she is on the right path as an up-and-coming soprano.
“I've been singing for as long as I can remember,” she says, when we meet to chat about her life and career.
Like many professional singers, Cecilia took part, in her fledgling years, in a church choir and she excelled at her studies at university, graduating cum laude. A postgraduate diploma student at the University of Cape Town, Cecilia completed her BTech in vocal art (Performance), at the Tshwane University of Technology, under the vocal tuition of Kiewiet Pali.
As a pupil, she represented Limpopo province on a national level at the South African Schools Choral Eisteddfod competitions, from 2009 to 2012, and she works regularly on community projects, singing as soloist at the National Choir Festival, Melting Pot and Free State competitions.
She has also performed in the TUT student productions of Faust (2013), La Cenerentola (2014) and Falstaff (2015); and participated in concerts and master classes with the internationally acclaimed Professor Michelle Breedt, Professor Kliesie Kelly Moog, Professor Barbara Hill Moore and Professor Josef Protschka.
She is both modest and proud when listing some of her other accolades: last year after performing the role of Fiordiligi in TUT’s Cosi Fan Tutte she was awarded first prize in the Phillip H Moore Music Competition and next month she takes part in the ATKV semi-finals and finals, if she goes ahead. In October she will know if she's a finalist after auditioning for the prestigious Neue Stimmen International Singing Competition.
While taking part in competitions plays a big part in Cecilia’s bid to get to the top, she is honing her skills as a studio member at Cape Town Opera and is hard at work rehearsing as understudy for the role of Senta in Der Fliegende Hollander, Wagner's tempestuous opera of a cursed sea captain and his ghostly ship.
As we meet on the eve of Women's Day, Cecilia says she cannot pay enough tribute to her late mother. “My mother went through so much and it's poignant to remember her on this day.”
One of four children, she was raised by her single mother in a small village in Limpopo. “My mother struggled to make ends meet and my brothers helped to support me when they left school and started working,”she says.
Speaking about her work with the Cape Town Opera as a soprano and on Der Fliegende Hollander, Cecilia says she is currently focusing on getting as much experience as possible. "Wagner is not for young singers. When I look at where I would eventually like to be, it's as an international singer in some of the roles he created.
“I would also love to open my own school and have my own competitions. I was lucky enough to get grants-in-aid of my studies but there are not enough bursaries in general. Apart from the honour of winning a prestigious contest, the money that comes with it is incentive money and is important to keep passion in youngsters alive.”