Mariah Carey said it only made sense to work for the Save the Music Foundation because music saved her.
"Music has always been my saving grace," said Carey, accepting her award at the foundation's 10th anniversary gala Thursday night at Lincoln Center.
"Like everyone growing up, my life wasn't easy," said the Greenlawn native. "I don't always like to talk about it in great detail, but music saved my life literally. Writing songs and singing is so therapeutic for me."
The Save the Music Foundation, which donates instruments to public schools and helps fund music education programs, honored Carey, President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former VH1 president John Sykes, who launched the foundation in 1997.
President Clinton, who accepted the award for both himself and his wife, who was at a debate in Iowa Thursday night, said, "I don't think I would have become president of the United States if I did not have the gift of school music when I was a boy."
He also stressed that there is now a great deal of scientific evidence that shows that children who are enrolled in schools with music programs do better than those who are not.
Before the ceremony, Carey said she was very excited about her new album, which she says will be very "modern-sounding." She said she hasn't decided on a title yet for the follow-up to her multi-platinum comeback album "The Emancipation of Mimi," though Island Def Jam chairman L.A. Reid said he hoped to announce the title and a release date next week.
In her acceptance speech, Carey said she was always thrilled when fans tell her that her song "Hero" saved their lives or that her hit "We Belong Together" helped saved a marriage.
"I was often discouraged," she said. "Thank god, I never gave up."