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UPDATE: Honolulu Skylark Passes Away

March 21, 2019, 8:31 AM HST
* Updated March 21, 11:21 AM
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Jacqueline Leilani “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti. Courtesy photo

Jacqueline Leilani “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti, who spent more than 40 years in the broadcast media, passed away on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, in Honolulu at age 65.

She died at 12:56 p.m. yesterday at  Kaiser Permanente at Moanalua from end-stage renal disease complications, surrounded by Hawaiian music and her family.

Her name is synonymous with Hawaiian radio.

Skylark was one of the founders of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards.

She was recognized as Outstanding Hawaiian Woman of the Year in 1984, Broadcaster of the Year in 1991, and won two Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, first in 1993 and then in 1996.

Jacqueline Leilani “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti. Courtesy photo

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In 2011, she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts.

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She is co-founder of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards along with Kimo Kahoano and Krash Kealoha, and emceed the Merrie Monarch competition and hō‘ike presentations for more than 30 years.

Rossetti was a 1971 graduate of the Kamehameha Schools.

After attending San Francisco City College, she returned home to Honolulu and worked at radio station KNDI where she started as a radio announcer, eventually running the station, something that was unheard of in the 1970ʻs.

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She became one of the pillars of the Hawaiian music broadcast industry while working as midday announcer and program director on KCCN 1420 AM, which put her right in the middle of the Hawaiian music renaissance in the mid- to late-1970ʻs.

“Her memory lives on every time a Hawaiian song plays on the radio.”

On Skylark’s KCCN 1420AM radio show, she played old 78s from pre-statehood days. Her show also gave birth to groups like the Sunday Mānoa, Brothers Cazimero, music of the Hōkūleʻa and more. One of the many groups she helped get their start was the Mākaha Sons of Niʻihau.

In May 1990, along with General Manager Mike Kelly; Skylark would put KCCN FM 100 on the air and begin the second renaissance of Hawaiian music; KCCN FM 100 would shoot to No. 1 in the radio ratings within a year.

Rossetti moved to Hilo in 1992 and became part of the broadcast industry on Hawai‘i Island with radio stations KWXX-FM and KAPA Hawaiian FM.

Jacqueline Leilani “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti. Courtesy photo

She worked at KAPA from 2001 to 2003 then again from 2011 to 2017, said Jaz Kaiwiko‘o Yglesias, program director at KAPA Hawaiian FM.

During her weekend show, “Step Back Saturdays with Skylark,” she  played classic, traditional Hawaiian music from the ’60’s and ’70s off the record player, Yglesias said.

She would share wonderful stories about the artist, because she was there,” he said.

“Skylark set the template for all of us in Hawaiian radio to follow,” said Yglesias. “We wouldn’t be doing what we do today if it wasn’t for Skylark fighting to get Hawaiian music on the radio. musicians, DJs and the Hawaiian music and hula world owe her a debt of gratitude. She was a kumu to all of us and her memory lives on every time a Hawaiian song plays on the radio.”

“Skylark was a trusted voice on the airways,” said Chuck Bergson, president and CEO of Pacific Media Group, parent company of KAPA. “I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with her.”

“I am so heartbroken—I’m going to miss her,” said KAPA DJ Darde Gamayo. “We talked weekly except for when she was in the hospital.

“I remember listening to her on the radio as a teenager visiting O‘ahu during the summers. Her voice pulled me in to want to hear what she was saying. It was soothing. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would become a DJ much less be working with the legendary ‘Honolulu Skylark.’

“Her knowledge of Hawaiian music was unbelievable,” Gamayo said. “She told me she has all the notes in binders at home.”

While she mentored many in the Hawaiian music industry, Gamayo said she felt  privileged to call “Sky” her dear friend.

“Sky” and Darde Gamayo primping for the 2017 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. PC: Darde Gamayo

As Gamayo reflected on the times they spent together, one stood out the most.

“She convinced me to go to the 2017 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards,” said Gamayo. “‘Life is short Darde! Let’s go!'” So, off we went and spent hours in the beauty salon… we laughed and laughed.”

“Each week we would chat just to check up on each other and she would give me pointers about my show,” Gamayo said. “As her health declined, our talks focused more about life and doing what we loved. She had a passion for all things Hawaiian and loved those in her life with a passion.”

Those who knew her and listened to her would agree: Rossetti has touched more of the Hawaiian music industry than anyone, helping music artists and entertainers and mentoring three generations of radio announcers.

She was the voice of many Hawaiian issues and many Hawaiian events, also working with Economic Development and the County of Hawai‘i.

She is survived by longtime companion Kimo La‘au and her children—Imaka Lindsey, Kilohana Lindsey and Makana Rossetti-Ota—and six grandchildren;

Services are pending.

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