SOUTH ORANGE — Sussex County residents Cassidy Rain and Bryan Schroeder have been touring with their band, The Outcrops, and as a duo, for over a year. They have made remarkable progress as they reach for success in the music world. That progress took a big turn on Feb. 18 when they won the South Orange Performing Arts Center's Blues Contest.Rain, lead vocals and guitar, and Schroeder, lead guitar, were backed by a house band en route to their victory. They were one of five final acts in the contest, which began with preliminaries at Hat City Kitchen in Orange. For the win, the band has been promised a gig at The Loft stage at SOPAC sometime next year. The competition was hosted by world class bass player Mike Grigot and Al Gold's Blues Band.As part of the competition, each act played two songs, one of them their own choice, and one that was picked "out of a hat." The first song that Rain and Schroeder played was "Key to the Highway" an old blues standard thought to be written by Bill Broonzy and Charlie Segar and later immortalized by Eric Clapton. The second song they played was in the Chicago shuffle blues style, "In my Younger Days", written by and performed originally by Junior Wells & Buddy Guy. Other genres included Rhumba, Boogie, Texas Shuffle, BB King ballad style, slow minor blues, and Electric delta.Five celebrity judges, including Rob Paparozzi, who played with the Blues Brothers Band, Baron Raymonde, who toured with Matt Guitar Murphy, and New York City performer Michael Hill were among the judges. "It was a great experience and a great honor," said Rain. "The other acts were outstanding. We knew it wasn't going to be easy." "It feels really good," added Schroeder. "You work hard and good things can happen."Rain and Schroeder, and their band, The Outcrops, have quickly become one of the up and coming blues bands in the region. As a band or as a duo, they've appeared at several top venues, including the Pattenburg House, Krough's, Bernie's Hillside Lounge, and in March, they'll be at the Stanhope House where they are opening for Shockenaw Mountain Boys featuring members of Railroad Earth and John Ginty & Friends. In the fall, they opened for Alexis P. Suter at the Blues & Craft Brews Festival in Hope. Additionally, they are already booking festival dates for the summer and fall, and in June will be featured on the Town Square Stage as part of Bethlehem, Pa.'s Arts Quest summer series. Arts Quest is part of the organization that also hosts Musikfest every year. They are currently working on a CD that is expected to be released sometime this spring. To learn more about the band, visit its Facebook page. The SOPAC "victory" is another notch on their already impressive musical resume. Expect many more notches to come.