press & News

After 35 years, RMSC Planetarium Director, Steve Fentress, Announces Retirement

    After 35 years of inspiring Rochester to look up and learn about our Universe, RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium Director Steve Fentress has announced that he will be retiring in November.  

    “I’ve learned so much at the RMSC, as we create, innovate, and serve the community,” said Fentress. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues on projects and programs that have been seen by generations of families over the years. Rochester’s excitement and passion for the Strasenburgh Planetarium has been a true gift throughout my years here.

    Fentress started his planetarium career as a part-time lecturer at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, shortly after graduating from UCLA as a physics major. He came to Rochester from Bloomington, Indiana, where he was studying conducting at the Indiana University School of Music and writing a daily science show for the local public radio station.

    In 1989, Fentress began his career at RMSC as Planetarium Music Director and was promoted to Planetarium Director in 1995. Building on the Strasenburgh Planetarium’s culture of innovation, he introduced current events into Planetarium shows using satellite television and the internet when they were new technologies. In 1995 he wrote and produced “Sun, Moon, and Stars,” a straightforward introduction to constellations for 5-to-7-year-olds that remains in steady demand for school field trips. Custom-produced astronomy programs have tracked the changing face of Earth, exoplanets, the Big Bang, and black holes. Artistic efforts have included urban legend shows for Halloween, “Nightfall Music” featuring wordless ambient music, several productions with Rochester’s BIODANCE troupe for the Fringe Festival, and “Impressions of the Infinite,” co-created with the electronic-jazz-funk music ensemble Vanishing Sun. In 2018, Fentress led the fiftieth-anniversary renovation of the Planetarium which included a full-dome digital visualization system, new lighting and sound, accessible seating, and more live presentations and special events. Recently, he has worked on star shows with open captions on the dome, possibly a first for planetariums in the U.S.

    “As Planetarium Director, Steve has been a transformational part of the RMSC, enthralling over a million minds, both young and old, that have come to learn about our solar system and beyond,” said Hillary Olson, President and CEO of the RMSC. “The Strasenburgh Planetarium will continue searching for the latest discoveries and sharing them with our community, and Steve’s sense of creativity, community service, and passion for lifelong learning will remain with us.” 

    The search for a new Planetarium Director will begin later in July. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for the next great Planetarium Director; though this individual will have big shoes to fill. For over 30 years, Steve Fentress has taken us all on an incredible journey through the universe” said Olson.