NYU's Independent Student Newspaper

Behind the scenes of ‘Diamonds’: Clive Davis students reveal process

Courtesy of Ryan Hutchins

Tisch senior Rachel Kanner was riding a bus in the middle of the desert in Israel when she heard the news. Halfway around the world, fellow vocalist and Tisch freshman Sabrina Reitman was asked to leave a New York restaurant for being too theatrical. A few miles away, Tisch freshman Cari Fletcher left halfway through a Broadway show.

The three were members of a group of 15 students from the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and one from Hofstra University that competed against over 40 groups in a Universal Music on Campus contest to create a cover of Rihanna’s hit single, “Diamonds.

In early January, the NYU entry won first place. Their video, which currently boasts over 169,000 views on YouTube, caught the attention of Rihanna who is scheduled to visit NYU on April 23 to meet the winning group.

“It’s amazing that an artist is coming and has recognized what we have been doing, but we just did this in the beginning to represent our school,” said Tisch junior Hannah Gross, the group’s vocal director. “We just wanted to… have fun, really get into our artistry and get into our production skills and really showcase what our school has taught us.”


For Hannah Babbit, Tisch junior and the video’s producer, social media was the perfect platform to spread the word about the contest. After posting on several NYU-affiliated Facebook pages, Babbit met with interested students. With pen and paper in hand, she organized schedules and asked each vocalist to do an impromptu audition.

“It’s funny how you can be in such close quarters with somebody and not realize how freaking talented they are,” Babbit said of her fellow Clive Davis students.

The group’s musical skills have been recognized not only within NYU, but also across the nation. Vocalist and Tisch freshman Sonali Argade was featured in her hometown newspaper in Florida. Even The Huffington Post and entertainment guru Ryan Seacrest have acknowledged their success.

The recognition, however, extends beyond the 16 students who participated in the project.

“I felt like it made NYU closer and more tight-knit,” Reitman said. “The fact that you’re communicating with people you wouldn’t normally communicate with … it’s something we all kind of bonded over.”


The group filmed the video in and around Greenwich Village on a frigid, rainy day in December. Each vocalist recorded tracks in the studio a few days prior, and was given the creative freedom to select a spot around campus as their backdrop. Campus marks like the Washington Mews and the 8th Street subway stop appeared in the video.

“The whole idea was that we really kind of wanted to capture the essence of going to school at NYU,” said Ryan Hutchins, a sophomore at Hofstra University and the video’s director. “The whole idea was [to] shine bright like a diamond … You’re a diamond if you go to NYU.”

Hutchins, a film enthusiast who received his first camera at the age of nine, spent 15 to 20 hours over five days editing the video. He says he’s thankful for the opportunity to have worked with a group of such talented student artists.

“Regardless of whether or not it went viral, or whether or not we won, it’s still something that we’re proud of because it’s something we made from scratch,” Hutchins said.

Courtesy of Ryan Hutchins


Producing the video not only introduced student artists to one another, but fostered collaborations between the vocalists. Discussion about another video is in the works to thank the community for their endless support.

“I had professors on the phone with me the day the video came out just offering their support,” Babbit said. “It doesn’t happen often that you’re at a college where professors care so much that they’re willing to help you out in any way professionally.”

Professors like Jeffrey Rahban, chair of recorded music at the Clive Davis Institute, and Nick Sansano, associate chair, have served as mentors since the video’s release. Sansano is currently working with juniors Alexandre Gresh and John Phillips who helped engineer “Diamonds.” For Sansano, the video is an affirmation of the skills the students learned inside the classroom. Clive Davis will fully support the students in any future endeavors, he added, whether through a music video channel or a large-scale project.

“You have to capitalize on success when it comes because you never know when it is going to happen,” Sansano said. “You never know when it’s going to strike.”

The experience has not only placed a future collaboration on the table, but has propelled each member forward in their artistic pursuits.

“We created something bigger than just ourselves,” Kanner said. “It represents not just a cover of a Rihanna song but our trials and tribulations being artists in New York City, and this positive attitude to keep going.”

Kristina Bogos is features editor. Email her at [email protected]

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NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
Behind the scenes of ‘Diamonds’: Clive Davis students reveal process