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Spektor was born in Moscow (in the former Soviet Union), to a musical Jewish family. Her father, a photographer, was also an amateur violinist, and her mother was a music professor in a Russian college of music; her mother now teaches at a public elementary school in Mount Vernon, New York.
Spektor learned how to play piano by practicing on a Petrof that was given to her mother by her grandfather. She was also exposed to the music of rock and roll bands such as The Beatles, Queen, and The Moody Blues by her father, who obtained such recordings in Eastern Europe and traded cassettes with friends in the Soviet Union. The family left the Soviet Union in 1989, when Regina was nine, during the period of Perestroika when Jewish citizens were permitted to emigrate. Unfortunately, Regina had to leave her piano behind. The seriousness of her piano studies led her parents to consider not leaving Russia, but they finally decided to emigrate, due to ethnic and political discrimination that Jews were faced with.
Travelling first to Austria and then Italy, the family settled in the Bronx, New York, where Spektor graduated from the SAR Academy, a middle school yeshiva in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. She then attended high school for two years on a scholarship at the Frisch School, a yeshiva in Paramus, New Jersey, but, feeling out of place, eventually transferred to a secular public school, Fair Lawn High School, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where she finished the last two years of her high school career.
Spektor has stated that she was originally interested only in classical music, but that she later became interested in hip hop, rock, and punk, as well.