LITTLE ROCK — Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday praised school art programs for teaching discipline and creativity to students, crediting his music lessons as a child for his success as a politician.

"If I had not been in a school music program, I would never have been elected president," Clinton said as he delivered the keynote address at the Arkansas Arts Summit. "Because it taught me discipline and order. It made me listen better. And once I got into jazz, I realized you had to make some things up along the way, but while you were making them up, you had to stay in the right key and still play in tune."

Clinton praised the arts as he addressed a group of art administrators gathered at his presidential library for the two-day conference presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the Kennedy Center. Organizers said the event was aimed at strengthening arts organizations.

Clinton, who was in the chorus and played the saxophone as a student, said organizations must stress the importance of arts education despite economic pressures and budget cuts faced by many school districts.

"We do not all learn the same way. We now have actual pictures of the human brain that show that different brains respond to different stimuli and become interested in absorbing information by different approaches," Clinton said. "There are an enormous number of people, little children, who will learn about math and science and history and English if the arts are incorporated into the way they learn."

Clinton said he hoped the summit would help groups learn how to "democratize" the arts and reach out to other areas.

"We live in a very rapidly changing, highly interdependent, increasingly complex world," he said. "We need the discipline and order of a rigorous adherence to the facts of life and the creativity we can only learn, young to old, from the arts."