“Although Anna-Maria Gkouni was appointed music director of the Conroe Symphony Orchestra back in March, her first rehearsal was only a few weeks ago,” writes Chris Gray in Tuesday’s (6/29) Houston Chronicle (TX). “The native of Athens, Greece said … that the players got a little emotional. … ‘The sound was so loud, like everybody’s heart was racing …,’ Gkouni says. ‘The first rehearsal was a blast.’ … At University of Houston, … Gkouni is pursuing her doctorate in orchestral conducting.… Her interviews and auditions [for the Conroe Symphony] all took place remotely…. Gkouni says she’s interested in showcasing contemporary composers but also in seeking fresh ways to approach the more canonical repertoire. [The orchestra’s July 3 concert] ‘Stars, Stripes & Symphony’ features a variety of patriotic-themed selections, including a salute to Broadway, Morton Gould’s American Symphonette No. 2 and the overture to Scott Joplin’s ragtime opera ‘Treemonisha.’ … Gkouni hopes coming together with a live audience after so long will also highlight music’s ability to heal…. ‘This is where the arts step in: to cultivate a healthy state of mind and teach beauty, teach kindness and how we can all be united,’ she says.”