Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Why am I called "denisebrain"?

My name is Maggie, so why is my business called denisebrain? I get this question regularly...today as a matter of fact.

My name isn’t Denise Brain, but it has been a bit of a nickname for me. I am a professional French 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, Norman Parkinson photo, 1953

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. Not long after that, I sold one vintage dress using the same user ID. Then another vintage dress, and another. Pretty soon, denisebrain had stuck to my vintage clothing business.

I don’t use the name denisebrain flippantly—I feel the utmost respect and awe for the inimitable musician who inspired it. Still, it isn’t the sort of business name I would come up with today. Today I would probably search deep and wide for a name that is easy to spell, memorable, interesting and tells what my brand is about. It would be nice to have people say, great name instead of who?

On the good side, I have had no competition for the use of this name, and at this point, I love it...it is my business. It’s also a sly and loving nod to my other job in music.

And wouldn’t you know it, I am gradually growing a 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—not my thing) and here are some:

I’ve worn these earrings (which I made from Christmas ornaments) forever. Jim Hendrickson photo, 1991

My husband gave me this 1960s vintage shirt for my birthday. It was from Vintage Vixen.
1950s modern horn print skirt
1970s horn photo print dress
Some—not all!—of my vintage horn pins
1950s Vera scarf
60s instrument-print shirtwaist dress, and my most beautiful accessory
The same print in different colors has recently joined my collection—it came from Small Earth Vintage
Another recent addition to my collection is this 1960s dress from CustardHeartVintage
This 1950s skirt came from Dorothea's Closet Vintage
A pewter horn pin, gift from my friend Amanda
This sash belonged to my Aunt Marie, a music teacher
My friend Anna (BootyVintage) gave me this 1980s dress
This copper jewelry set was given to me by my friend Susan

One last shot, because I love it so: The Quintessential Brass at Indiana University in about 1981. I think we called it the Maggie and the Spit Valves shot. That is about when I started signing into a practice building as Denise Brain, so I guess this is origin story material!

David Coleman, John Wilds (my brother), David Ford, Norlan Bewley and {ahem} Denise Brain.
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Unknown said...

Wonderful story! I play the flute, not professionally, but have kept it up since high school. I sometimes play solos at church etc. I have some flute jewelry too, but a flute just kind of looks like a stick, so people don't always recognize what I am wearing. I have a goldtone one with rhinestones on the keys that I like....and gold treble clef earrings. Love your vintage clothing!! thanks for sharing.

denisebrain said...

Good for you continuing your flute playing Susan! (perfect name: Lutes for flutes) I know, the flute, as beautiful as it is in person, is not the object of much jewelry design or fabric printing.

Witchcrafted Life said...

That is such a great backstory behind your business name. Thank you for sharing it with us.

xoxo ♥ Jessica

Kaydeerouge said...

Lovely story, lovely pics - and what a great collection! Yes - Denis Brain a very fine musician, and I think you honour him and bring his name to a wider different audience with your moniker! My husband once an amateur French horn player! ���� Katherine

denisebrain said...

Katherine, your husband was a horn player? Perhaps he needs vintage horn ties!

Glad you enjoyed this, and glad you did too, Jessica!

Mary Jane said...

Great background story, Maggie. It's a pleasure to see you enjoying all your favorite horn related vintage finery.