Conducting Business

Stories from the Allen Edmonds Man

In my shoes: Volume 1 - Story 5

Conducting Business

Paul Hughes

General Manager of a symphony orchestra

London, England

The great Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson, when asked what was her secret of success on the operatic stage, replied, "A comfortable pair of shoes," and I've taken her advice ever since.

Though I no longer perform myself, I work as a senior manager in the music profession. There's a moment when I'm standing in the wings at the concert hall and the conductor's standing there beside me gathering his thoughts, managing that feeling of adrenalin and nerves that I know so well. In that moment, maybe no longer than a minute or two, the conversation can turn to anything from questions about the family to the traffic on the way in tonight. But on this occasion, the conductor looked down at my shoes.

"Nice shoes"

"Thanks. Allen Edmonds—Mayfairs— the most comfortable pair of concert shoes I've ever owned."

"Hmmm," he said. "Classy."

"I picked them up on my vacation in Boston a couple of weeks back. They're made in the USA."

Suddenly the doors opened, the audience broke into enthusiastic applause and he was off to the podium, and nothing more was said.

The following month, he was back working with us and I knew he'd been in the U.S.A., guest-conducting on the West Coast. I went into his dressing room to collect him for the start of the concert and, beaming with pride, he pointed down at his feet and said, "I took your advice."

"They look great—comfortable, eh?"

"I bought three pairs and now I hate to take them off after the performance."

"Another convert," I thought. It's not that there aren't good shoes in the UK—far from it. But the style and quality of Allen Edmonds, and the fact that you don't often see them here, does make those of us who are "in the know" feel like we're in a private club. I like that. And clearly, so does my conductor.

Right, he's coming back off stage now, so I'd better go…

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