The Music Lesson

Weaving together the music of Bach, with memories of the Bosnian War and the universal conflicts between teacher and student, THE MUSIC LESSON tells the story of Irena and her husband Ivan, two musicians who escaped the war in Sarajevo to start a new life in Pittsburgh. When Ivan meets Mrs. Johnson, a recently divorced mother, at Giant Eagle, he brings home two new students: 10 year old Eddie, a talented violin student, and the unwilling Kat, his 14 year old sister. While Irena’s passion for music and the students she taught helped her survive the war, she now stands torn between Maja, the 12 year old piano prodigy she left behind in Sarajevo, and Kat the bright but angry American teenager who wants to learn but resists her teaching. Shifting elegantly from past to present and resonating with powerful music, this is the tale of two countries, two families, two generations and the ways they teach and heal each other.

Jessica Peterson as Irena in Florida Stage production
Jessica Peterson as Irena in Florida Stage production
Cast Requirements

4 women, 2 men

Set Description

The action takes place both in Pittsburgh 1996 and Sarajevo 1992-1995


Bonderman Award (1999)
Carbonell Award for Best Production (2000)
AATE Distinguished Play Award (2004)


Dramatic Publishing Inc.


"One of the year's most important, thought provoking and heartfelt new plays... Tammy Ryan's impressive drama... sears as well as soothes the soul"
-Jack Zink, Sun-Sentinel, South Florida


Production and Development History

THE MUSIC LESSON was commissioned by Prime Stage Theater for Youth and Families, Wayne Brinda, Artistic Director in 1998.

It was developed at the Bonderman National Playwriting for Youth Symposium, Dorothy Webb, director of Symposium, directed by J. Daniel Herring.

The first professional production was presented at Florida Stage in 2000, Louis Tyrrell, producing director, Nan Barnett, managing director directed by Louis Tyrrell and Mark Lynch.

The Music Lesson has had over 50 productions nationally including: The Alliance Theater Company,The People’s Light and Theater Company, The Marin Theater Company, The Dorset Theater Festival, Stage One: Louisville, and Dallas Children’s Theater.