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Spektor attended high school for two years at the Frisch School, a yeshiva in Paramus, New Jersey, but transferred to a public school, Fair Lawn High School, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where she finished the last two years of her high school education.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.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.While on the tour, she and the band performed and recorded "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men".
The record sold 50,000 copies in its first week, entering the US Billboard 200 at number three; the record remained on the chart for 19 weeks.
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.
Listeners of Sirius Radio's Left of Center channel voted her single "Fidelity" as the No. Towards the end of 2006, VH1 showcased her as part of their "You Oughta Know: Artists on the Rise" featurettes, playing clips from the "Fidelity" music video and showing parts of an interview with Spektor during commercial breaks on the channel.
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.
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.