Regina Ilyinichna Spektor (born February 18, 1980) is an American singer-songwriter and pianist. Her music is associated with the anti-folk scene centered on New York City's East Village.
In New York, Spektor studied classical piano with Sonia Vargas, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, until she was 17; Spektor's father had met Vargas through her husband, violinist Samuel Marder. Although the family had been unable to bring their piano from Russia, Spektor found a piano on which to play in the basement of her synagogue, and also practiced on tabletops and other hard surfaces.
Spektor was originally interested in classical music only, but later became interested in hip hop, rock and punk as well. Although she had always made up songs around the house, Spektor first became interested in more formal songwriting during a visit to Israel with the Nesiya Institute in her teenage years when she attracted attention from the other children on the trip for the songs she made up while hiking and realized she had an aptitude for songwriting.
Following this trip, she was exposed to the work of Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, and other singer-songwriters, which encouraged her belief that she could create her own songs. She wrote her first a cappella songs around the age of 16 and her first songs for voice and piano when she was nearly 18.
Spektor completed the four-year studio composition program of the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College within three years, graduating with honors in 2001. Around this time, she also worked briefly at a butterfly farm in Luck, Wisconsin, and studied in Tottenham (a suburb of London), for one semester.
She gradually achieved recognition through performances in the anti-folk scene in downtown New York City, often as a duo with drummer Anders Griffen, and most importantly at the East Village's SideWalk Cafe, but also at the Living Room, Tonic, Fez, the Knitting Factory, and CB's Gallery. She also performed at local colleges (such as Sarah Lawrence College) with other musicians, including the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. She sold self-published CDs at her performances during this period: 11:11 (2001) and Songs (2002). In 2004, she signed a contract with Warner Brothers' record label Sire Records to publish and distribute her third album Soviet Kitsch, originally self-released in 2003.