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In New York City, 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 Vargas' husband, violinist Samuel Marder.
Although she had always made up songs around the house, she 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.
They settled in the Bronx, where Spektor graduated from the SAR Academy, a Jewish day middle school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
Since the family had been unable to bring their piano from Moscow, Spektor practiced on tabletops and other hard surfaces until she found a piano on which to play in the basement of her synagogue.
Spektor's 2006 headlining tour in support of the Begin to Hope album included back-to-back hometown shows at Town Hall Theater in New York City on September 27 and September 28, 2006.
In 2004, Spektor signed a contract with Warner Brothers' record label Sire Records to publish and distribute her third album Soviet Kitsch, originally self-released in 2003.In 2007, Spektor began performing at several major music festivals including Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Virgin Festival and Austin City Limits Music Festival.On October 1, 2007, her video for "Better" was released on VH1 and You Tube, where it was viewed more than 100,000 times within the first 24 hours.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, Spektor gradually achieved recognition through performances in the anti-folk scene in downtown New York City, most prominently at the East Village's Side Walk Cafe.Spektor's first nationwide tour was accompanying The Strokes as the opening act on their 2003–2004 Room on Fire tour which included performances at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.