Who she is: 

Regina started playing piano at age six on a treasured family piano that had been passed down from her mother and grandfather. When she was a child, Russia was still part of the Soviet Union and the government had antisemitic policies. This made life difficult for the Spektors because Jews could not earn as much money or have as much freedom as other citizens.

When Regina was nine, her family moved to the United States. At first, Regina did not have friends and could not speak English. But worse than that, she had to leave her beloved piano behind. She continued to practice piano by “playing” on the hard surface of a window sill until she found an old piano in the basement of the local synagogue and met a wonderful teacher.

What she does: 

When she was a teenager, Regina got a scholarship for an arts trip to Israel. She recalls one day when her group was hiking in the Negev desert: “I’m not much of a hiker,” she says, “So it was really hard, and to help myself get through it, I would sing little songs and make them up.” Other kids on the trip loved Regina’s songs and encouraged her to start songwriting. After attending the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, Regina played small concerts and sold her own homemade CDs. In 2004, she got her first record deal and released her first official album, Soviet Kitsch.

Why she's cool: 

Regina has a unique musical style. She uses her voice to make drum-like sounds which she says is “like suddenly discovering that you also have a tambourine inside your throat.” On one song she even uses one hand to play the keys of her piano and her other to beat the side of the piano like a drum. Regina writes songs from the perspectives of characters she invents, rather than about herself. She believes that as an artist, it is her job to give voice to different kinds of people and to represent the world.

About being Jewish: 

Regina believes that Judaism influences everything she does, even when she isn’t thinking about it. She says that her heritage is like melodies or feelings that people have inside them. “I guess that’s what makes it heritage,” she says, “It’s inherited; you don’t really have to think about it, it’s just kind of there.”