The Conroe Symphony Orchestra, based in Montgomery County, Texas, near Houston, has hired its first female orchestra conductor — Anna-Maria Gkouni, who hails from Athens, Greece.
The Board of Directors of the Symphony welcomed the Greek native at a small reception held in her honor on March 16 at the Conroe Symphony Centre.
Board of Directors Chair, The Honorable Kathleen Hamilton told the assembly that Gkouni “takes the reins as the Symphony’s new Conductor and Music Director.
“Gkouni is set to lead the all-volunteer Symphony in its 24th Season, which hopes to begin performing again this summer,” she noted.
Orchestra conductor, pianist and piano instructor
Gkouni, who is not only an orchestral conductor, but a pianist and piano instructor as well, has musical interests “from classical to jazz and traditional music to more electronic and progressive sounds,” the Texas press reported.
The Athens native earned her piano performance and a music theory degree from Philippos Nakas Conservatory.
After receiving her BA from Ionian University in Corfu, Gkouni went all the way to Nebraska to earn her MA in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
She is now pursuing her Doctor of Musical Arts in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Houston while she undertakes the leadership of the Conroe Symphony Orchestra.
The local press reports that “Gkouni has attended masterclasses with international pianists and conductors, such as pianist Lucas Debargue and the conductor of the Boston Pops, Keith Lockhart.”
New Symphony conductor has won awards and fellowships
Gkouni has won many awards and distinctions, including the Schissler Foundation Fellowship, the University of Houston Graduate Tuition Fellowship, and the Hellenic Professional Society of Texas Award.
Professor Franz Anton Krager was quoted in reports as saying that “Anna Maria is a natural talent… As a young and aspiring conductor, I would place Anna Maria Gkouni in the top 1% of her peers.”
“To lead the Conroe Symphony Orchestra is a dream come true,” Gkouni told members of the Texas press. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to conduct this exceptionally talented group of musicians.
Looking to create “innovative shows” after season commences
“My greatest aspiration for the future is to create innovative shows that will combine multiple forms of art such as theater, which is my second passion. We are all very much looking forward to bringing music back to the city of Conroe.”
The search for a new conductor, undertaken during this unusual time in which music cannot be played to audiences, was led by Dr. Don Hutson, who had served as the Music Director for thirteen years.
Asked for his thoughts about Gkouni, he replied “she’s precisely the fresh new talent that is needed to take the Conroe Symphony Orchestra in a bold new direction. As Board members our desire is to create experiential new works of art that help expand the reach of the orchestra. I believe that Anna-Maria will take us there.”
The website Hello Woodlands reported that a date has not yet been announced for the first 2021 performance of the Conroe Symphony Orchestra under the Greek native’s direction, but there is an expectation that “it will be sometime this summer.”
The Conroe Symphony Orchestra, in Conroe, Texas, approximately 40 miles north of Houston, was founded in 1997. It has been led by Dr. Robert Zwick, Dr. Don Hutson, and Dr. Jacob Sustaita in its brief history.
The Orchestra’s mission statement says that it was created to contribute to the cultural enrichment of the community, assuring a better quality of life for the Conroe area. Its objective is to provide the region with the best possible musical experience, while creating music lovers and connecting community.