|Ilya Shatov will sing at Friday's Winter Wonder Fest|
Grossmont College student Ilya (pronounced “ill-ya”) Shatov can’t decide what he wants to pursue more – a career in medicine or a future in music.
So for now, he’s chasing both.
The Russian-born singer/songwriter--one of six acts taking the stage Friday at Cuyamaca College’s Winter Wonder Jam--is a former guitarist and vocalist for the pop punk band, A Dull Science, which toured the western and Midwestern United States and put on about 400 shows during its seven-year existence. Winning numerous Battle of the Bands awards and songwriting competitions, A Dull Science captured “Best Punk Artist” honors at the Hollywood Music Awards in 2008, and played with the likes of P.O.D., A Flock of Seagulls, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, and the Ataris.
The Santee-based group formed in late 2006 was young, but talented enough to have a full-time manager not long after its genesis and began performing at Los Angeles venues including the Roxy, the Viper Room, and the Knitting Factory.
George Varga, pop music critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune, described the band’s 2008 debut album, “What Were We Thinking?,” as an “unusually polished work for a debut,” adding that “if A Dull Science’s members are even half as accomplished on stage as on this album, their future should be bright.”
But music is a fickle business and the band didn’t last, so Shatov went off to nursing school, where he discovered his knack for the sciences and started on the road of pursuing medicine as a profession. At Grossmont College, where he is a first-semester student, Shatov is majoring in biology.
“But I can’t stay away from music for too long,” he said.
Born in Moscow, Shatov immigrated with his family to New York City at age 8, where his father, a former professional boxer who was the No. 2-ranked middleweight in all of the Soviet Union, started working as a diamond merchant.
As a third-grader in elementary school, Shatov was introduced to music through the humble kazoo.
“I really wanted to play the alto sax – Clinton was president back then – but the school started all the kids with the kazoo because they didn’t want to invest in a bunch of expensive instruments unless students were really serious about wanting to play,” Shatov said.
By the time he reached the ninth grade, his parents had split up and his mother took him to relocate to San Diego. It was at Serra High School that he began hanging out with other music-minded teens and after graduating in the spring of 2006, he and a trio of friends launched A Dull Science.
These days, the Russian expatriate is carrying 15 units of classes and working fulltime as a general contractor with a close family friend. Within the past couple of years, he began feeling the pull of music again and has been performing as a solo vocalist in the pop/alternative rock genre in local venues like House of Blues and Tin Roof in the Gaslamp district.
“I don’t sleep much,” he responds when asked how he finds time for music.
The 27-year-old former Junior Olympic swimmer who’s even dabbled in modeling for the Wilshire-based Daniel Hoff talent agency has led a life interesting enough to be featured in the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul” book series.
At Cuyamaca College’s Winter Wonder Jam, Shatov will be joining five other bands and artists performing original music, along with their version of a Christmas song.
The homegrown music fest is set for 7-10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, in the performing arts theater.
Open to the public, the sixth annual music fest is put on by students in the Music Industry Studies program as a term project to learn the intricacies of concert promotion and production. Admission is $5 or a donation of three canned goods to the San Diego Food Bank. Ample free parking will be available at the college at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in Rancho San Diego.