When Voorhees resident Genaro Medina came to America from Venezuela in 1999, he had a couple of dollars in his pocket, could barely speak English and nurtured a dream to fill arenas with his bowed string vibrations and a fundamental tune of the violin.
But 22 years and a pandemic later, Medina needed stability to support his wife and son, which meant putting his lifelong passion for live performance and teaching orchestrated music on pause to become a Marlton mail carrier.
At the age of 14, Medina had a full-time paid job as a young professional player with a state symphony orchestra and had completed his conservatory studies in Venezuela. He furthered those studies after he was offered a scholarship from the Duquesne University Mary Pappert School of Music in Pittsburgh, where Medina was mentored by the great Sidney Harth, an American violinist and conductor.
“He was a man that, in his heyday, he was concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic … I’m talking about famous of the top,” Medina explained. “He belonged to that tier that was only him and five others , nobody else. He taught everywhere in the major schools and universities, and it just happened that Pittsburgh was his home base.”
Harth’s smooth violin rhythm inspired Medina to not only learn the trade, but become part of the music. After learning music organization and archiving skills at Duquesne, Medina still uses Harth’s tactics when he plays the violin. He believes some of them can be incorporated into his post office work.
“When you’re in a symphony orchestra, you have different instruments, but they have to be in harmony all the time,” Medina noted. “The postmasters (people in charge of a post office) will make sure that every mail that got to this office is delivered on time.
“I don’t know how they do it,” he added, “but to me, as from the world I come from, they work in harmony.”
Before COVID, Medina and his wife, Lela Tsinadze, a native of the former Soviet republic Georgia, were teaching the violin and piano to students, but once the virus struck, Medina had to prioritize what was important: family.
“Our savings were running out and there was the opportunity the government was offering (of) benefits. But we don’t believe in that,” he said. “I don’t like that; I like to work.”
Medina had to find a stable job that wouldn’t require him to have a degree in another field and would allow him time to continue his passion as a musician.
After browsing through employment search engines, he saw the postal service was hiring for a City Carrier Assistant in Marlton, and he knew no matter what happened during COVID, his job will always be essential.
“I always had a high respect for the postal office, because I believe that a sign of a strong country is the sign of a good postal service,” Medina said. “After the military, the postal service is a vessel for the country. If this stops, the country is doomed.
“You are delivering the personal goods of a person to their door,” he offered. “There are their bills and medicine. This is a blood vessel of the country, and I’m highly honored to be a part of the miracle.”
As for Tsinadze, she was able to continue teaching her students and Medina’s, ensuring that when the time comes, he can get back to music instruction. Their 7-year-old son is also musically inclined; he plays the violin and piano.
Last fall, Medina received an offer to become a music professor at Eastern University in Pennsylvania, but due to the low number of music students enrolled there, he hasn’t been able to teach.
“I take pride and joy in protecting my family. I don’t make compromises on that,” Medina stated. “It hurts a little bit, not to be employed in music, but it’s an ongoing process. As long as you consider to be a professional, you never stop.”
Medina doesn’t plan to lose his musical touch, because the rhythm of his violin is a part of history that he wants to inspire generations to come.
“My goal is to pass along my knowledge, either at a college level or a high-school level,” he offered. “Regardless, my dream is to keep playing my violin because, at some point when I get older, I won’t be able to depend on my physical self. So the idea is to be a teacher.”