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The Isaacs Girls



Some may think it’s unlikely that a Jewish girl born in Germany after World War II to Polish-born Jews who survived the German Holocaust would go on to play in a family bluegrass Gospel band. That’s precisely what Lily Isaacs has done, working with her family’s band to perform across the country and worldwide. They have earned 19 Dove Awards in various categories and many other awards for their inspiring music.

 

Lily moved to New York with her parents in 1949 when she was two. She spoke Yiddish until she was in grade school. In 1969, Lily met Joe Isaacs, a Greenbriar Boys bluegrass band member, in Greenwich Village. Joe was one of 19 children born to a Pentecostal preacher father. The couple married, and Lily accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior in 1971 at Joe’s brother’s funeral in Ohio. 

 

It was a natural progression for her to join Joe on stage. Lily always had show business in her blood. As a child, Lily studied theatre and performing in the Bronx. As a teenager, she signed a contract with Capitol Records and recorded an album with a friend. But the birth of her three children set the course for Lily’s performing life. “God blessed me with three very talented children.” In time, she became the matriarch of one of the bluegrass world’s most endearing groups, The Isaacs. 

 

The group now consists of Lily and her three children, daughters Becky and Sonya, son Ben, and other musicians. Since this issue of The Bluegrass Standard focuses on the women of bluegrass, we’ll turn our attention to the girls.


“My girls started their career in bluegrass before they were born,” laughs Lily, who says she was on stage with each of them before they saw the light of this world. “I can’t remember a time when they weren’t on stage with us. Both of them picked up an instrument on their own and learned by watching other people. I think Sonya was playing with us by the time she was seven years old.” Lily says the girls never had formal music lessons outside a few vocal lessons. “Their talent comes naturally.” 

 

Sonya Isaacs Yeary plays mandolin and sings with the band. Through many trials and tribulations, including two miscarriages, Sonya has managed to rise above it. Along with her songwriter husband, Jimmy Yeary, they wrote a song about the second one called “Keep Breathing,” released on The Isaacs 2016 album Nature’s Symphony in 432. Sonya is the middle child of the Isaacs family. She and Jimmy married in 2009, and they have two sons and a daughter.

 

In a recent podcast, Sonya says that being raised in two cultures “really introduced our palettes for different musical styles.” Both sides of her family have influenced her faith. While she loves the culture, traditions, and discipline of the Jewish faith, she says her Pentecostal side has taught her about free worship and having a personal relationship with God.


Becky Isaacs Bowman is the baby of the family. She is a guitarist, vocalist in the band and an accomplished songwriter. However, Lily said music was more challenging for Becky than her siblings. For years, she suffered panic attacks on stage, but now she prays a special prayer before going on stage. Knowing she is doing what God has called her to do helps, too. 

 

Married to evangelist John Bowman, Becky wanted to go into the medical field at one time. But she continued playing with The Isaacs and now feels she is exactly where God wants her to be. Becky spent much of 2023 recovering from a tragic car accident that left her with multiple injuries to both legs. 


The Isaacs are based out of Hendersonville, Tennessee. They stay busy performing on the road, recording in the studio, and producing for other artists. “My girls are my best friends, and I love spending time with them,” says Lily. “But I’m not going to sugarcoat it. We are a family, and we have disagreements like any other family. But we love each other and know how to get past our disagreements. We always have each other’s back.” a trustworthy opportunity for others to help us bless Israel. 

 

Their passion project is the family’s non-profit, The Isaacs Foundation, with a mission “to help us provide a trustworthy opportunity for others to help us bless Israel.” Lily says what is happening in the Middle East is heartbreaking.


“I have cousins in Israel, but I feel sorry for the Israelis and the Palestinians. As descendants of surviving Jewish Holocaust parents, I don’t understand the hatred of Jews. My prayer is for all people to have peace.” 

 

The Isaac Foundation was formed in 2018, and Lily says they have been able to bless Israel with several hundreds of thousands of dollars through the non-profit. “Because of the current conflict, our focus has changed to a humanitarian focus, helping to get people basic needs.” 

 

The Isaacs are frequent performers on The Grand Ole Opry and are often seen on the Gaither Homecoming Videos and Concert Series. They have performed in several countries on almost every continent, in venues ranging from large arenas to country churches. Their travel schedule is mind-boggling, yet they all make time for family.


“We live pretty close to each other,” says Lily, who says the family enjoys spending time together even when they’re not on the road, especially during the holidays. 

 

 

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