The Vineyard community gathered at the Davies residence in Chilmark last week for the ninth annual Stars+Stripes festival, a fundraiser to support the YMCA. Legendary musician and Massachusetts native with ties to the Vineyard, Taj Mahal, donated his performance to a cause he believes in.

According to Sarah Murphy, director of advancement at the YMCA, the annual event has raised over $1 million since it began. All funds raised, she said, are directed towards increasing financial assistance to those who can’t afford YMCA programs and strengthening the wide array of free programs.

“The Y has really become a family for people who don’t necessarily have that on the Island,” Ms. Murphy said. “It is a place where people of all ages can connect.”

She continued: “We want to help create a happier and healthier community. I think we could all use a little more of that.”

Taj Mahal would agree.

Before the show, Taj spoke about what it means to belong to a community, how his community has influenced him and the importance of music in upholding these traditions.

“In terms of what I do, there are two things people aren’t going to get by without—one is food and the other is music,” he said. “The world of where I descend from in DNA—music, work, agriculture, fishing and honey bee gathering—it’s all part of the same thing, your life.”

“My friends were all southern boys that played guitar,” he continued. “I hung out with them, learned what they learned from their uncles, cousins or grandfathers. To me that’s an incredible thing, to carry that on. As far as I’m concerned, when I’m playing music, I’m just visiting ancestors, man. My cousins.”

Island fisherman Buddy Vanderhoop sat next to Taj on a couch before the show. The pair recently went fishing together and traded stories of fishing and community building.

“Taj used to invite me down to his tournament in Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica,” Buddy said. “The whole premise of the thing was to make money for blues musicians who couldn’t afford to buy instruments. At the end of that tournament everyone in Costa Rica dumped onto the beach. They had all these great musicians playing together and it was really a great cause.”

Music has always been one of the focal points of the fundraiser, Ms. Murphy said. The teen center at the Y, Alex’s Place, includes a performing arts space with a recording studio, stage and sound system. Two regional high school seniors, Robert Hanjian and Mackenzie Condon, performed at the Stars+Stripes festival before Taj Mahal.

“This is the first song I ever wrote,” Ms. Condon said to the audience. “And the first time it was recorded was at the YMCA.”

The eager audience included patrons of the Y from on and off-Island. Dukes County Sheriff Bob Ogden thanked the crowd.

“Because of your support, no one is ever pushed away at the Y,” Mr. Ogden said.

According to Ms. Murphy, program participation and numbers have increased significantly since the start of the Stars+Strips. Almost every program has doubled over the last five years, she said, and the opportunities for financial assistance have also increased dramatically thanks to the money raised at the benefit.

At the end of his hour-long set, Taj put his guitar down and addressed the audience directly.

“It’s nice to see a community step up,” he said. “Good people, doing a good thing.”