Orchestra funding hits bad note

Composer Stavros Xarchakos yesterday launched a strong attack on the government and the way that Greece funds the arts as he revealed that the State Orchestra for Greek Music (KOEM), which he conducts, is on the verge of financial ruin. Xarchakos called a press conference to inform journalists that KOEM owes some 2 million euros and that its musicians have not been paid since October. The celebrated 69-year-old composer and conductor claimed that the Finance Ministry had earmarked 2 million euros for the orchestra last October but the Culture Ministry used this money for other purposes. «We have read recently that, with the approval of both main parties, money that was destined for investment in culture was instead spent on bonuses for [Culture] ministry staff,» said Xarchakos in reference to a report submitted to Parliament by prosecutors last week. «But the amazing thing is that all the culture ministers rushed to confirm this, rather than see it as a scandal.» The composer, who has represented the ruling New Democracy party in the European and Greek parliaments, said that a lack of state funding for the arts means that «culture becomes a matter for private sponsors and their choices.» Xarchakos, who has been conducting KOEM since 1994, blasted culture ministers for «believing that cultural policy consists solely of fulfilling personal desires, dividing up the state pie… and developing patron-client ties that offer them personal, financial or political gains.» Xarchakos was flanked by several notable figures from Greece’s musical scene, who backed his argument. «The Culture Ministry might not have all the money in the world but it should carefully consider how it spends funds,» said composer and former Culture Minister Thanos Mikroutsikos.