Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why “denisebrain”

My name isn’t Denise Brain, but it has been a bit of a nickname for me. I am a professional horn player and teacher, and Dennis Brain is one of the greatest horn heroes any horn player could ever have. Tragically, the Englishman was only 36 when he suffered a fatal crash in his sports car in 1957. He had already become arguably the greatest hornist of modern times.

Dennis Brain
In 1999, when I was first prompted to provide a user name on eBay, I was helping a student bid on horns and my first thought was the nickname denisebrain.

From eBay, to Etsy, to my own website called, I have had no competition for the use of this name! I don’t use the name denisebrain flippantly—I feel the utmost respect and awe for the inimitable musician who inspired it. 

It isn’t always easy for others to understand my love for both vintage clothing and the horn, but I have a simple premise that ties these in my mind: I am attracted to beauty. I love the quality and beauty of vintage clothing and I consider the horn capable of the most beautiful sounds in music.

Tying these together further for me, I am growing a small collection of vintage clothing and accessories featuring horns of all types and eras (other than the all-too numerous Ugly Christmas Sweaters with horns that is!) and here are some:

I made these earrings out of Christmas ornaments

I’ve worn the earrings for many a concert over the years (Jim Hendrickson photo)
50s modern print circle skirt
50s instrument print dress...and my most beautiful accessory
50s Vera scarf
70s photo print dress

Some, not all, of my vintage horn pins!

A few have asked if there are video or audio examples of me playing my horn online. There are, but not without some permissions granted. Here, however, is a brief snippet of my playing, from

I was really pleased that the site’s administrator chose the San Diego Symphony’s performance of this excerpt from Berlioz’ Romeo and Juliet as a good example of this important horn part. I’m playing 3rd horn, which happens to be the highest part in this brief passage. Kudos to my former colleagues in the San Diego Symphony, particularly the horns on this recording: John Lorge, Warren Gref, Doug Hall and Keith Popejoy. 

If you ever see a vintage horn print item, I’d be very grateful if you’d let me know about it!


That70sShoppe said...

How wonderful! I never knew! And as you might remember me mentioning at one point, both my kids are/were horn players in their high school band. My son just graduated last year. It has such a wonderful distinct sound and I'm glad my kids both had the chance to play the instrument. I will have to ask them now if they ever heard of Dennis Brain. :-) Keep up the good work!

Chrissy88 said...

Thank you for sharing this story as I am a new subscriber. I love a story like this which shows how a person who is true to their abilities and passions is more interesting than all the monotonous celebrities that people seem obsessed with. I love all the unique instrument print items you have collected too.

osovictoria said...

Nice story and an honorable name.
I don't recall ever seeing vintage horn prints, but if I do ever run across any I'll keep you in mind.

Louise said...

My dad is a huge Dennis Brain fan- I can remember as a child listening to records of Dennis with my father. My dad still has those records but unfortunatly he no longer has a record player!
I think your name is a good one- it means something to you and in some way it helps to keep the memory of Dennis Brain alive.

Dina@VintageAdvantage said...

Thanks so much for sharing the reason for your shop name...I've wondered that for quite a while! The little snippet of Berlioz is lovely :-)
I had a horn print shirt in my Etsy shop a few months back that you would've loved!

denisebrain said...

Wonderful comments, thank you for making me feel interesting! : ) I'm looking forward (always!) to seeing any vintage horn prints out there. They must be fairly rare.

Louise, your dad can hear Dennis Brain through iTunes if he likes. Dennis Brain's Mozart concertos recording is considered one of the greatest albums of the 20th century, and has never gone out of print, jumping from one medium to another. I believe all his recordings are on iTunes.