Playing bluegrass music is a family affair, if you are a Bost. Based in Bisbee, Arizona, Bost Family Traditions have been named, “Arizona’s Family Band of the Year,” at several bluegrass festivals around the state for many years running. The Bost family band, known as Bost Family Traditions, consists of Jeff and Pamela Bost and seven of their eight children.
Jeff Bost is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an ordained minister. He plays banjo and emcees for the band. He is also a songwriter. Pamela Bost, plays the stand-up bass and is the band mother (and literal producer), manager, booking agent, and promoter. Their oldest son, Micah, 22, is the 2009 Arizona State Mandolin Champion, and also plays steel guitar. Faith,20, sings tenor harmony as well as lead vocals, and plays fiddle and piano. Liberty, 18, sings lead vocals and plays guitar. Felicity,14, plays drums and bass. Charity,12, is a fiddle player. Will, 9, plays guitar, and Jon, 6, plays banjo.
A few years ago, I had the unenviable task of performing immediately after Bost Family Traditions at a gospel festival in Quartzite, Arizona. The old adage, “they’re a hard act to follow,” is true. They were wonderful! They sang and played their hearts out with dead on precision and passion for the Lord. As my husband and I got to know the family, we were impressed and amazed at how well the Bost’s got along while living in an RV.
The Bost family has spent many years traveling the road and are building a following far beyond the borders of their home state. Recently, the family underwent a crises when Jeff and Pam’s youngest son, Jon, was diagnosed with leukemia. What follows in an interview with Jeff about life as a traveling family band and how Jon’s illness has affected the family and their music.
Karmann: What’s it like for the family being on the road?
BFT: Every day is an adventure! We have really enjoyed traveling over the past seven years and everyone has learned to cope with the lack of space and close personal quarters. Likewise, the children have learned to be very outgoing making friends where ever we happen to be planted. We have seen so much of the western half of the USA which makes geography and history lessons really come to life! We have attempted traveling with pets with a lot of mishaps along the way. Our traveling cat used to sleep all day and spend the nights pouncing on everybody during our sleep. We had a beagle named Sam who would howl when we were away from the bus. One thing for sure. In such tight quarters we could never let anger or resentment fester between parents /children or siblings. You have to work it out because you just can’t get away. We are experts with Christ’s command that if you brother offends you, go to him between you and him alone. If he hears you then you have gained a brother. Consequently, our children are very close to one another and to us.
Karmann: What made you decided to take the family on the road?
BFT: We live in Cochise County, Arizona. There are more cows than people. To play music full time we simply had to travel to where the people are. We played our first concerts as a family in 2002 while I was pastoring the Desert Waters Church at Silver Creek between Douglas, AZ and Rodeo, NM. Over the next three years we started to get invitations to play further away from our home base. My church graciously permitted us several Sundays a year to travel around playing music. In 2005 I notified our board that we were thinking of becoming full-time musical evangelists. The church thought that we might give it a try in 2006 while still on church salary. If it did not work out, my position would still be mine. The 2006 tour of about eight months away from home worked out well and we bade farewell in December. 2007 to 2013 we averaged about 300 days per year away from home.
Karmann: I’m assuming you home school your kids. Is there a particular curriculum you use?
BFT: We have eight children who have all been home-schooled. Four are in various stages of college and the other four are still in grammar/high School. We have used several curriculum through the years. Currently we are using LandMark Baptist Curriculum.
Karmann: How often and how long are you on the road?
BFT: Since 2007 about 300 days per year playing roughly 150 concerts per year. This year – because of Jon – we are cutting back on days away from home. We are planning on about 180 days in 2014 and about 150 shows.
Karmann: What were the first indication Jon had problems?
BFT: We headed north in late Aug 2013. While in Show Low, Jon could not seem to shake a summer flu he picked up. He was getting noticeably weaker. Pamela decided to take Jon back to the family doctor in Cochise County and would catch up with us in Colorado when Jon was feeling better. When the family arrived in Alamosa a couple of days later we got the news that Jon was in Intensive Care are University Hospital in Tucson. They suspected Leukemia but could not get a definitive diagnosis. Not knowing exactly what we were dealing with we transferred Jon to Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Phoenix. They released him at the end of September for two weeks with more testing to be conducted in the middle of October. On Oct 22 we learned that he had Leukemia and he was admitted for another two weeks in the hospital while he started the Protocol treatment.
Karmann: How has the process been for you, for him?
BFT: Jon was very depressed – as we all were. He missed his family to the point of despondency. I mentioned that the children are extremely tight with one another. Second, he felt that he had done something to cause Leukemia and he struggled with feelings of guilt. Pamela and I have been working with him on that issue, assuring him that he is not to blame. When we were all re-united in November, he started to snap out of his funk. I think being with his family has really encouraged him to persevere and overcome. We have noticed a significant improvement in attitude and mood. He is taking it all in stride now and working hard to follow doctor’s orders and beat it!
When Jon was released from the hospital at the end of September I felt confident that God had healed him. He was feeling well and was glad to be out of the hospital. In mid-October when we were informed that he had Leukemia, my heart melted and to be quite honest, I was angry. I have been a Christian for quite a while and pastored a church. But on that day in October I was saying, “My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?” I canceled all of my preaching engagements for the next month and indefinitely until the issue might be resolved in my heart. In November we played at God’s Country Church in Tucson where I usually preach. I explained the situation to Pastor Ron and he assured my there was no problem and that he would cover the pulpit. He preached from James 1:1-3:
“…count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (NKJ James 1:2-3)
I looked up to heaven and said: ‘Are you kidding me?’ Ron really encouraged me that night and I was assured that I was not forsaken but blessed.
Here is something that I read by CS Lewis which applies:
Does God then forsake just those who serve Him best? Well, He who served Him best of all said, near His tortured death, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need. There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore. Meanwhile, little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.
(C.S. Lewis, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” originally from The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, here from The Essential C.S. Lewis (Touchstone, 1996) 380.)
Needless to say, it has strengthened my faith and dependence on our gracious heavenly Father.
Karmann: How has it effected your music? Your songwriting? Your faith?
BFT: Our music has changed in that Pamela no longer plays the bass and our younger children no longer travel with us. Some have remarked that our music is more “adult” themed now and a bit more contemporary. Our message and theme remains the same: God is great and He loves us.
I wrote a couple of dark songs in September and October. We are including one of them on our latest CD due to be released in April (Beyond the Picketwire) I think some of my prayers and creative output is akin to David writing his Psalms: My bed is soaked with tears. I believe that before it is all done you will see some great creativity resulting from this tragic event.
Karmann: Many people have asked, “How can I help?”
BFT: God is not going to miraculously heal Jon. Just as Christ was required by God’s grand design to go to the cross, so the Bost family – Jon in particular – is required to drink this cup to the glory of God. Pray that Jon would be physically strong and able to overcome the many terrible side-effects of chemo therapy. Pray that we would be strong through the next three years of weekly clinic appointments where Jon is exposed to various chemo cocktails, spinal punctures and bone marrow aspirations – a four hour, one-way drive away from home. Pray that we would be wise enough to see God’s hand through it all for even though I walk through the trials of Leukemia I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Pray that we might shine ever brighter in ever darker places because of this trial. Pray that we might count it all joy as we watch the chemo therapy take its terrible toll on his body.
New Release: Beyond the Picketwire
Bluegrass – Folk genre
Available on itunes or email firstname.lastname@example.org to order a CD for $10 plus s/h.
TRC’s Arizona readers are in luck! The Bost Family Traditions is performing at the Prescott Bluegrass Festival, June 21 and 22. You can also hear to The Bost Family Traditions and purchase their music on their reverbation page. If you’re not in Arizona, Pamela Bost adds, besides prayer, referring the family to churches and performance venues in your area is a wonderful way to help. If you would like to make a contribution to help the family defray medical costs, or if you have a venue suggestions, you can contact Pam via e-mail at email@example.com She has set up a Facebook page, Jonathon Bost Battling Leukemia, that tracks Jon’s progress as he goes through the treatment process.