Regina Spektor is a Jewish American singer-songwriter and pianist.
Born in Moscow in 1980 to a musical Russian Jewish
family, Spektor learned to play piano at an early age. Her music is
influenced by folk, punk, rock, Jewish, Russian, hip hop, jazz, and
classical music styles.
Spektor learned to play piano on a Petrof upright that
she inherited from her maternal grandfather. At a young age she was
exposed to rock and roll music, such as The Beatles and Queen, by her
father, who got the recordings in Eastern Europe and traded cassettes
with friends in the Former Soviet
In 1989, the Spektor family left the FSU because of its unbearable discrimination of Jews, during Peristroika,
when Soviet citizens were allowed to emigrate. They came to the United
States through Austria and Italy, and the Hebrew
Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) helped them reach the U.S. where they settled in The Bronx. Spektor graduated from the SAR Academy,
a Jewish day school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. She went
to the Frisch School, a yeshiva in Paramus, New
Jersey, for the first two years of high school but graduated from
Fair Lawn High School, also in New
Until age seventeen, Spektor studied classical piano
at the Manhattan School of Music, and later transitioned to hip hop,
rock, and punk music. She first realized her aptitude for songwriting
while hiking on a trip to Israel with the independent organization Nesiya, which facilitates Jewish American
and Israeli teenagers’ connection to Israel through the arts.
She was exposed to the work of Joni Mitchell, Ani DeFranco, among other
singer-songwriters, which inspired confidence and prompted her to create
her own songs. Spektor wrote her first songs for voice at age sixteen
and for piano at age eighteen.
Spektor graduated with honors in 2001 from the Conservatory
of Music at Purchase College, a four-year degree that she completed
in three years. She gradually achieved recognition for her unique voice
and musical style through performances in the anti-folk scene in downtown New York City following conservatory. Among the venues where she performed are the
Living Room, Tonic, Fez, and the Knitting Factory, and local colleges
such as Sarah Lawrence College.
During this early stage in her musical career, Spektor
self-published the CDs 11:11 (2001) and Songs (2002),
and signed a contract with Warner Brothers’ record label Sire
Records to publish and distribute her third album, Soviet Kitsch.
Spektor’s musical style is influenced by folk,
punk, rock, Jewish, Russian, hip hop, jazz, and classical music. She
has a broad vocal range and employs a singular blend of vocal techniques,
using for example beatbox-style noises and sings ballad-like lyrics.
Her lyrics are similarly eclectic, and some include literary allusions
to the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf.
Spektor’s other albums are Begin to Hope (2006), Far (2009), and What We Saw from the Cheap Seats (2012). Begin to Hope was nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize and
she won Studio8's Female Voice of August 2009.
Spektor is a proud Jew and speaks openly about her connection to Judaism, has performed in
Israel, and at the Washington, D.C. Celebration of Israel’s 60th
Birthday on the National Mall in June 2008, as well as at a 2012 concert
in New York City to benefit HIAS.
In 2009, she describes her family’s move to the U.S. in a HIAS promotional video series called “myStory,” to commemorate
the organization’s 130th anniversary.
In 2009, in the middle of Israel’s Operation
Cast Lead, Spektor articulated that “no government in the
world would not protect its citizens from attack. That’s unlawful,”
she said. “And it’s not sticks and stones, as many of my
friends and relatives in Israel know. It’s rockets … And
there are different laws and rules for a Jewish government? If you prick
us do we not bleed?”