The Maine College of Art graduation ceremony Saturday was a little offbeat compared to traditional commencements full of the usual pomp and circumstance.

Graduates and faculty marched into the State Theatre in Portland to the quirky beat of the electronic jazz band Jaw Gems, instead of the requisite brass ensemble.

The only gowns were worn by the 20 master’s degree recipients, while the 88 undergraduates wore optional mortarboards and walked across the stage to receive their degrees in fashionable raiments. The audience also got a good look at each graduate’s art as slides of their work flashed on an overhead screen as they were handed their diplomas.

It was no doubt the only graduation in Maine on Saturday that featured the college president – in this case, interim president Stuart Kestenbaum – reading an original poem as his welcoming address while sporting “academic bling” – a shiny necklace with pendants representing each of the college’s departments fashioned by a faculty member.

The graduation season shifted into high gear Saturday, with hundreds receiving degrees at ceremonies across the state.

More than 900 University of Southern Maine undergraduate and graduate students received degrees at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland in a ceremony that featured journalist and Waterville native David Brancaccio, host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report,” as speaker.

In Orono, more than 1,900 University of Maine graduates received degrees in two separate ceremonies at the Harold Alfond Sports Arena. The university’s 215th commencement ceremonies featured speakers Heather and Abe Furth – UMaine graduates and Orono-area entrepreneurs.

Degrees were also conferred on more than 650 students at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, where Kerry Weber, a Catholic author and social justice advocate, spoke to graduates.

The York County Community College graduation of 263 students at the Ogunquit Playhouse featured speaker Jean Ginn Marvin, the innkeeper at Nonantum Resort and chairwoman of the Maine Community College System board of trustees.

At Unity College, 150 graduates heard from Jimmy Chin, a documentary filmmaker, National Geographic photographer and climber known for skiing Mount Everest from the summit.

At the MECA commencement in Portland, artist Lily Yeh, who brings art projects to traumatized and impoverished places around the globe – such as a village of genocide survivors in Rwanda and a community of dump pickers in Kenya – spoke to the students about effecting change through art.

“Creating art in forlorn and forsaken places is like making a fire in the darkness of a winter night,” she said.

But while the ceremony was heavy on speeches exhorting students to find meaning through their art, there was also some useful advice.

Speaking on behalf of the faculty, Marie Shurkus, chairwoman and associate professor of academic studies, told the students not to fear failure but to view it as a bridge to success.

“Look fear in the eye and invite it to tea,” Shurkus said.

Some MECA graduates said they were sad to leave college but excited about the future.

Justin Desper, 23, of Kennebunk is aiming to become a designer of wearable technology. Desper, who transferred from the University of Maine to MECA as a junior, said he will miss the art college.

“I loved MECA. I felt more at home here and more connected than at any other school I attended,” he said.

Greta Wilsterman, 22, of Falmouth, Massachusetts, said she was excited about her upcoming two-year internship with potter Silvie Granatelli in Floyd, Virginia.

“She only has one apprentice and I get studio space,” Wilsterman said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: QuimbyBeth