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Concert for a Cause

Remembering Tom Bres through music

Pooja Salhotra
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Jan Bres, Meg Bres

JAN AND MEG Since Tom Bres passed away in 2015, his wife Jan and daughter Meg have been active supporters of The Broach Foundation for Brain Cancer Research. (Photo:

Tom Bres was a lot of things to his daughter Meg – basketball coach, cheerleader, comedian, and, quite simply, “the best dad ever.” 

One thing he was not: a musician. 

“I must say, he was all but tone deaf,” says Meg, who is 27 and now lives in New York City.

Tom couldn’t sing or play the guitar, but when he heard the first few notes of any song, he could almost instantly name it. He had an ear for music. And like Meg, a soft spot for beautiful instruments and strong vocals. 

Tom passed his passion for music down to Meg, who coupled that passion with talent and dedication. Meg has been singing since she was five years old and started playing the piano and guitar soon after. As a student, she sang in choirs at St. John’s School, where she graduated from in 2014. Now she plays in a band in New York City, where she also works on global partnerships at Madison Square Garden. 

Tom Bres, Meg Bres, Jan Bres, Kate Bres

FAMILY MEMORIES A close-knit family, Tom, Meg, Jan, and Kate Bres enjoyed laughter and music together. (Photo: Reece Foy)

When Tom passed away in the summer of 2015 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer, it made sense for Meg to honor her father through music. Meg and Tom had shared similar tastes in music, and they would often share playlists with each other, adding songs they thought the other would like. They both loved John Mayer and Norah Jones, and Meg enjoyed listening to her dad’s “pump-up” playlists on the way to sports games. Those playlists featured artists like U2, AC/DC, and The Rolling Stones. 

When Tom passed away, Meg had just finished her freshman year of college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and she didn’t have many opportunities to play there. She missed performing and singing, so she organized some of her musically talented classmates from St. John’s to put together a set list for a December concert in honor of her dad. 

The concert would also be a fundraiser for The Broach Foundation, an organization that supports clinical trials for treatment of glioblastoma, the form of brain cancer Tom was diagnosed with in 2014. 

Now, eight years later, that concert has spawned its own nonprofit organization called Concert Against Cancer, and it has raised more than $180,000 for cancer research. 

Tom Bres, Meg Bres

Tom was always a huge supporter of his daughters. Here he’s pictured with Meg at college t-shirt day at St. John's School in 2014. 

“When Meg started [the concert], I thought it would be for a year or two,” said Jan, Meg’s mom, who is also a board member for The Broach Foundation. “But it has become this great show, and a huge crowd comes out to support. I’m just so proud of Meg.” 

In the span of a week, Tom Bres went from being 100 percent normal to having a cancerous brain tumor. The 53-year-old was a prominent wealth manager at UBS who Meg says was physically fit and health conscious. So she was shocked when she learned her dad had a seizure while driving. 

It was May 2014, close to graduation week for Meg, and things quickly escalated. Doctors diagnosed Tom with glioblastoma, a fast-growing and aggressive form of brain cancer. Within a few weeks, Tom had surgery, followed by chemotherapy, and was given 9 to 18 months to live. 

“He was so physically invincible that at the time I didn’t think he would pass away,” Meg said. “I thought it was a difficult thing that we would get through.” 

Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer and is typically treated with surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy. It is difficult to fully remove the tumor, but surgery can prolong the lives of some patients. 

Concert Against Cancer

MAKING MUSIC Attendees of the 2022 Concert Against Cancer.

There’s no cure for glioblastoma, and researchers at MD Anderson’s Brain Tumor Center – with support from The Broach Foundation – are actively working to find one. Tom participated in a clinical trial funded by The Broach Foundation. In the end, the trial didn’t work for Tom, but it offered a glimmer of hope for a while. 

Before he passed away, Tom helped raise over a million dollars for The Broach Foundation. That’s more than 16 percent of the total amount the Foundation has raised for brain cancer research since the organization’s inception in 2011. 

“It just speaks to his friendships and the presence he had in the community that it wasn’t that tough for him to go out and raise a ton of money,” Meg said. 

The concert has been a way to continue the work that Tom started. The event is both a light-hearted reunion for old friends and a way to educate people about brain cancer while remembering Tom.

For the past few concerts, Meg has performed No Such Thing by John Mayer as part of her set. The song was one of Tom’s favorites. Meg recalls sitting in the living room of her family’s River Oaks home, playing it for Tom when he was sick. 

The Bres household was always one filled with music and laughter, said Christie Dawson, Meg’s best friend and a performer at the annual concert. Christie said she considered Tom and his wife Jan a second set of parents while growing up. She recalls laughing at Tom’s jokes and admiring his dedication to his two daughters, who called him Superman. 

Meg Bres, Elizabeth Cregan, Christie Dawson, Jake Schick, Cameron Hull, Dylan Villarreal, and Ross Smolen

Concert Against Cancer participants included (from left) Meg Bres, Elizabeth Cregan, Christie Dawson, Jake Schick, Cameron Hull, Dylan Villarreal, and Ross Smolen.

“Meg’s house was one of those houses that was so fun to go to,” Christie said. “You’d go over and hang out in the kitchen and living room with her parents because they are so fun to talk to.” 

Tom made it a point to immerse himself in whatever Meg and her older sister Kate were interested in, according to mom Jan. 

“I’d be riding in the car, and he’d put on a radio station I didn’t like,” Jan said. “And I’d say, ‘do we have to listen to this?’ And he’d say yes, we need to know what the girls are listening to.” 

That interest extended beyond music. Tom coached many of Kate and Meg’s sports teams, including basketball, softball, and soccer, a sport he knew nothing about. He even helped Meg with her cheer audition at SMU. 

“She had to learn this routine and she didn’t know what she was doing,” Jan said. “The two of them spent two days in a hotel room in Dallas and he just coached her. She made it on the squad and won two national championships.” 

Concert Against Cancer

The annual Concert Against Cancer takes place at Axelrad Beer Garden in Midtown. This year, the concert will take place Thurs., Dec. 28, 7 p.m. at Axelrad.

Since Meg started the annual Concert Against Cancer in 2015, it has grown in size and impact. The venue has changed from a small bar in the back of a downtown grocery store to the more sprawling Axelrad Beer Garden in Midtown. It draws about 100 audience members, and last year’s event included corporate sponsorships for the first time. It was also live streamed, helping it reach new audiences outside of Houston. 

“It just seems like every year there’s this momentum that builds,” said Deanna Kotrla, the executive director of The Broach Foundation. “What I love about it is that it’s unique. They are taking what they have, which is incredible talent, to raise funds and raise awareness.” 

The three-hour event usually happens the day after Christmas, and performers said they’ve started planning their winter holiday around the event. Planning usually starts in October, with Meg rounding up singers, including several of her St. John’s classmates, and a band to accompany them. Each singer performs about five to eight songs. 

This year’s concert will take place Thurs., Dec. 28, 7 p.m. at Axelrad. Confirmed performers include Meg Bres, Elizabeth Cregan, Christie Dawson, Cameron Hull, Dylan Villarreal, Nate McMullen, Murphey Harmon, Ben Levy, Will Duson, and Christina Moss.

Since Meg started the concert, her uncle Rick Holzinger, who is Jan’s younger brother, was also diagnosed with and passed away from glioblastoma. The concert is now dedicated to both Rick and Tom. 

Meg has tossed around the idea of expanding the concert to New York City. She says she talked to her band about organizing a summer concert to raise money for the foundation. She’s also thought about bringing in new Houston musicians, aside from her own friends, to play in the concert. 

The possibilities seem endless, and Meg says she’s taking it one year at a time. For now, she smiles as she reflects on memories with her dad, knowing he would’ve loved the concert in his honor. 

“He was so loud and funny and a wonderful character – the life of every party,” Meg said. “I think this whole thing fits him so well. It would be his ideal night.” 

Editor’s note: Visit to learn more about the 2023 Concert Against Cancer.

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