NEW YORK: Andolina Collado didn’t know where to start when her young daughter asked for violin lessons. An immigrant from the Dominican Republican who works as a home health aide, she asked everyone she saw carrying an instrument in her Manhattan neighborhood if they knew of affordable lessons. Finally, one man pointed her to a church where Whin Music Project offers sliding scale tuition based on income.

Her daughter Anmy thrived on violin and soon wanted to learn piano. Whin teachers pointed her to the MusicLink Foundation, which pairs motivated students from low-income families around the country with music teachers willing to give lessons at a discount. At age 8, Anmy wrote to MusicLink to ask if somebody who spoke Spanish could contact her mother. Julie Wegener, New York City coordinator for Music­Link, was so moved she decided on the spot to teach Anmy herself.

Collado isn’t the only parent who has watched instrument-toting strangers and wondered how to enter that world.

Private lessons are beyond the reach of many families, and even music programs at public schools can come at a price. Students in elementary, middle and high school can expect to pay at least $300 in instrument rental or related costs, according to the “Backpack Index,” an annual study of the cost of school supplies and fees conducted by Huntington Bank and the organization Communities in Schools.

Even for families with means, there are tricky questions. Who wants to invest several hundred dollars in a guitar that might end up in the closet? But then how do you know if you have a Mozart in the family?

Before plunging into music lessons, it helps to explore the landscape.

Rein in expectations

It’s extremely unlikely your child is the next Yo-Yo Ma, but that’s no reason not to put him in lessons. Your child’s first piano class could be the first step to a scholarship at Julliard or the start of a lifelong hobby. Ask yourself if you’re OK with either possibility, because chances are the going will get tough after the novelty wears off.

Let your child weigh in

It helps if you don’t just drop an unsuspecting 6-year-old in piano lessons. Let your child explore different instruments first. Try the library or local park for free concerts and singalongs. Mazzochhi, who runs the website www.musicparentsguide.com, suggests watching YouTube videos of master performances. He advises searching for music stores that offer “petting sessions” for children to hold and try out instruments.

Evaluate options

A good place to start is the Music Teacher National Association, which has a “Find-A-Teacher” search function and tips on what to look for, says Sue Wege, director of coordinators for Music­Link. Try to get a trial lesson and interview. The MTNA site offers a list of questions to ask, including whether the teacher offers performance opportunities that can be important for motivating children.

Plan for costs

Because of fees, music is one of the three areas — along with sports and field trips — where low-income students get left out, according to Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities in Schools. He urges families to ask school officials about fee waivers or seek out a community coordinator for help.

“Some people are embarrassed to ask,” said Collado. “I’m not embarrassed.”